PHILADELPHIA — June has generally been a tough month for the St. Louis Cardinals.
Manager Mike Matheny’s bunch left May with a .500 record and were three games behind Milwaukee for the National League Central lead. But so far this month the Cardinals are 6-12 to fall to 31-37 overall and they’re now 5 1/2 games behind the Brewers for the division lead — and only two in front of last-place Cincinnati.
The Cardinals will face the one team they have had success against lately as they open a three-game series in Philadelphia on Tuesday.
In three games from June 9 to June 11, St. Louis handled Philadelphia in a three-game sweep, winning a pair of one-run games to open and begin the series, with a 7-0 victory in between. The Cardinals have lost five of seven since.
“Pitching has been carrying us all year and the offense has been struggling,” left fielder Tommy Pham told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch after the Cardinals lost 8-5 to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday. “Right now, we’re hitting the ball better, but we’re just not on the same page.”
Taking the mound for the Cardinals to open the series will be a starter who didn’t face the Phillies the last time around, right-hander Mike Leake.
This season, Leake is 5-6 with a 3.14 ERA, having lost each of his last four starts. His last time out, he was touched for nine hits and six runs (all earned) in five innings against the Brewers. That came after he began the season 5-2 with a 1.91 ERA in his first nine starts.
Leake has faced the Phillies 10 times in his career, going 3-3 with a 5.40 ERA. That’s the worst ERA he has against any team he has faced more than four times.
His last appearance against Philly went much better than his track record, as he shut out the Phillies for seven innings, striking out eight while giving up seven hits in a 9-0 win last July. He hasn’t lost to the franchise since 2012, going 3-0 in his last five starts against them.
The Phillies’ June has been even more frustrating, as the team with the worst record in the majors has gone 5-12 to slip to 22-46, already 19 1/2 games behind Washington in a division the Nationals are absolutely running away with — nobody else is within 10 1/2 games.
The Phillies’ last series was the eighth time this season they’ve been swept, getting beaten in three straight by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Phillies have lost 11 of their last 12.
To try to slow the slide, they’ll turn to veteran right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who was signed in the offseason to a $17 million contract but has thus far underwhelmed, going 5-5 with a 4.91 ERA.
Like Leake, Hellickson has especially struggled of late, going 0-4 with a 7.57 ERA in his last five starts. In his last start, he gave up nine hits and six runs in a loss to Boston.
“The last month and a half has been pretty frustrating,” he said afterward. “Sprinkled a couple good (starts) in there, but I just pride myself on being consistent and giving us a chance to win every night, and I haven’t done that too often the last seven or eight starts.”
In a start against the Cardinals earlier this season, Hellickson gave up 10 hits and three runs in six innings and picked up the loss. In four career starts against St. Louis, Hellickson is 2-2 with a 4.91 ERA.