After a 7-5 win Wednesday at Minnesota in the last game of a six-road trip, the St. Louis Cardinals returned to their offensive malaise Thursday night. In a 6-2 loss at home to the Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis stranded 11 men, seven in the last three innings.
It was the sixth time in nine games that the Cardinals had lost, as well as the sixth time in nine games that they’ve been held to two or fewer runs. And their chances of exploding Friday night in the second contest of their four-game set with Philadelphia don’t appear bright, either.
That’s because the Phillies (25-16) will run Jake Arrieta, who has a track record of success against St. Louis, to the mound. Arrieta (3-1, 2.59) is 8-4 with a 2.27 ERA in 17 career starts versus the Cardinals, fanning 107 hitters over 99 innings.
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Arrieta could easily be 5-1 were it not for a bullpen meltdown and a lack of run support during his last two starts. He left with a 4-1 lead at Washington on May 6 that the bullpen turned into a 5-4 defeat and blanked the New York Mets over 7 1/3 innings on May 11 before they rallied to beat Philadelphia 3-1.
The St. Louis lineup Arrieta will face Friday has been nowhere near as potent as many thought it would be in the season’s first quarter. The Cardinals are 23-18 despite ranking 11th in the National League in batting average (.231) and 14th in extra-base hits (106).
In fact, manager Mike Matheny even took the drastic step of pinch-hitting for mainstay Matt Carpenter when the Phillies brought in left-hander Adam Morgan with two outs in the eighth inning Thursday night after St. Louis cut its deficit to 4-2.
Carpenter, who’s hitting .164 even after collecting four hits in the last two games, saw Harrison Bader fly out to right and strand the potential tying runs.
“It’s never something you take lightly,” Matheny said of his decision. “You go with something you feel like is your best chance to win the game. Harrison has been taking good at-bats against lefties. He (Carpenter) is a little frustrated. He’s been in that situation quite a few times.”
Carpenter might start Friday night where he ended Thursday night. He’s only 2-for-36 in his career against Arrieta, his former teammate at TCU, although both hits left the park.
The Cardinals will hope that Michael Wacha (4-1, 3.09) can match zeroes with Arrieta. Wacha is 4-0 in his last seven starts and pitched well Saturday night even though St. Louis suffered a 2-1, 13-inning loss in San Diego.
In that outing, Wacha breezed through six innings, permitting only three hits and a run with one walk and five strikeouts. Since a 6-2 loss on March 31 at the New York Mets, Wacha has limited opponents to two runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts.
He is 2-2 with a 4.40 ERA in five starts versus Philadelphia.
The Cardinals could use a long outing from Wacha. Their starter for Saturday is still undetermined in the wake of Adam Wainwright’s recurring arm trouble that landed him on the disabled list earlier this week. He was transferred to the 60-day DL on Thursday and is one of eight players on the shelf, including six pitchers.
“Obviously a lot of roster turmoil right now, and that’s never ideal,” president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said to mlb.com.