Cardinals hope offensive spark carries over to homestand

The St. Louis Cardinals are hoping the offensive awakening they had Wednesday — with struggling veterans Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler figuring prominently — is a sign of good things to come as they open a seven-game homestand Thursday against the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Cardinals arrive back in town after splitting a six-game road trip against San Diego and Minnesota. They beat the Twins 7-5 on Wednesday as Carpenter and Fowler combined for five hits.

Carpenter and Fowler entered the day with the lowest averages among qualified hitters in the National League at .140 and .146, respectively. But Carpenter had three hits, including a pair of doubles, and Fowler stroked two hits, including a two-run single in the first off former teammate Lance Lynn.

“It was nice to see the offense get into rhythm today,” Carpenter said. “Hopefully, this is a little foreshadowing for what is to come. Hopefully, we’ll get this going on the next homestand every day.”

Carpenter batted seventh Wednesday, the lowest he’s hit in the order since July 22, 2015.

“He’s real close to getting right,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “His swings looked very good. We know the type of hitter he can be.”

Right-hander Luke Weaver (3-2, 4.91) will start for St. Louis (23-17) in the first of a four-game series with the Phils. Weaver snapped a three-game losing streak Friday night in San Diego, making it through five scoreless innings in a 9-5 laugher over the Padres.

Weaver will face Philadelphia for the second time in his career. In a 2016 defeat, Weaver permitted three runs and nine hits in five innings, recording six strikeouts and walking one.

The Cardinals face a Philadelphia team that beat Baltimore 4-1 on Wednesday and ascended to a spot it hasn’t been since the end of the 2011 season — eight games over .500. The Phillies are 24-16.

“We’re all really positive in here right now,” said Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta, who fanned 11 batters in seven innings to earn the win over the Orioles. “Everybody is jelling together. You guys can see it. It’s really, really fun in here right now.”

Fun is something Philadelphia hasn’t experienced much of the last five years in Busch Stadium. The Phillies are just 5-13 under the Gateway Arch, dating to 2013, including a three-game sweep last June in which they were outscored 16-7.

But this a better Phillies team. They have a better lineup, led by Odubel Herrera, who has reached base in 42 straight games dating to the end of 2017, and have upgraded their pitching with the late addition of Jake Arrieta during spring training.

Arrieta has stabilized a promising young rotation that includes power right-hander Vince Velasquez (3-4, 5.05 ERA), who makes the start Thursday night. Velasquez is coming off a 6-3 win May 10 against San Francisco in which he fanned 12 over six innings, allowing five hits and three runs in the process.

This will be Velasquez’s second career start against the Cardinals. He lost his first outing in August 2016, ceding five runs on seven hits in six innings of a 9-0 defeat. Velasquez allowed two homers, walked two and whiffed seven.