The Philadelphia Phillies gained plenty of ground over the weekend in the NL East, but none in the wild card race.
The Phillies seek their fifth straight win as they continue their final road trip of the season on Monday with the opener of a three-game series against the struggling St. Louis Cardinals.
Philadelphia (80-69) completed a three-game sweep of the New York Mets with a 10-6 victory on Sunday to pull within 3 1/2 games of the NL East leaders. The Phillies have 13 games remaining—one fewer than the Mets, who they are not scheduled to face again in the regular season.
“They’re ahead of us, said the Phillies’ Greg Dobbs, who had a pinch-hit grand slam in the sixth inning. “We get up and excited to play them and it’s a bit of a rivalry.”
The weekend’s success, however, didn’t help move Philadelphia closer to the wild card. San Diego swept three games from San Francisco, leaving the Phillies 1 1/2 games behind the Padres in that race.
“You play them out. You never know,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. “This is a funny game.”
The Phillies have won five of their six games at new Busch Stadium since it opened last year. One player who has made himself at home at the park is reigning NL MVP Ryan Howard.
The St. Louis native, is 10-for-26 (.385) with one homer and nine RBIs at Busch. Howard also is 10-for-26 against the Cardinals this year, but has only three RBIs as the Phillies have won four of six meetings with the Cardinals.
St. Louis (70-78) has dropped 10 of its last 11 games to virtually fall out of contention in the mediocre NL Central. The Cardinals lost three of four over the weekend to the division-leading Chicago Cubs, who have a seven-game lead over the defending World Series champions.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa has tried to stay positive, pointing to his team’s attempt to rally during a 4-2 defeat on Sunday.
“It’s a loss, but all you had to do was watch the way the club (battled) when we got down 4-0,” he said. “It’s a group to admire.”
St. Louis’ Albert Pujols was 5-for-15 in the series, but drove in just one run. Pujols went 6-for-14 with four homers and five RBIs in the Cardinals’ last series against the Phillies from July 13-15.
He’ll get another look at Phillies rookie Kyle Kendrick (8-4, 4.02), who won his lone start against St. Louis by giving up one run and six hits over seven innings in a 13-3 win on July 13. Pujols was hitless in three at-bats against Kendrick.
Kendrick left his last start when a batted ball by Garrett Atkins banged off his right knee in the fourth inning on Wednesday in a 12-0 loss to Colorado.
“I didn’t get a chance to see it, but I felt it,” said Kendrick, who was charged with four runs and seven hits.
The right-hander is just 2-3 with a 4.50 ERA in seven road starts.
La Russa indicated after Sunday’s game that Brad Thompson (6-5, 5.05) would likely start the opener of this series. The Cardinals have won 10 of Thompson’s 14 starts.
Thompson, who has never faced the Phillies, is starting for only the second time since July 28. He turned in his shortest start of the season on Aug. 9 at Arizona, giving up two runs over two innings in a 6-5 loss.
The right-hander last pitched in relief on Thursday in a 5-4 loss at Cincinnati, tossing two scoreless innings.