The Philadelphia Phillies’ charge up the NL East standings continued on Monday - but just barely.
The Phillies (81-69) beat the Cardinals 13-11 in Monday’s series opener, after nearly blowing an 11-0 lead. Aaron Rowand made a tumbling catch to end the eighth inning, preventing the tying and go-ahead runs from scoring.
The win was Philadelphia’s fifth straight - one shy of their season high - and eighth in 10 games. The Phillies also moved to within 2 1/2 games of the NL East-leading New York Mets, who lost their fourth in a row after falling to the Nationals.
Philadelphia, which swept the Mets in three games over the weekend, also remained 1 1/2 games behind San Diego for the NL wild card lead. The Padres blanked the Pirates.
The Cardinals (70-79), meanwhile, have dropped 11 of their last 12 games to fall eight games behind the NL Central-leading Chicago Cubs with 13 games remaining. St. Louis is just 2-5 against the Phillies this season and 5-14 in their last 19 home games against them since 2001.
Hamels (14-5, 3.50 ERA) hasn’t pitched since Aug. 16 because of a left elbow strain. Despite missing more than a month, Hamels still leads the team in wins and strikeouts (156) and owns the lowest ERA among Philadelphia’s starters.
Manager Charlie Manuel said Hamels, who went 3-0 with a 2.78 ERA in his last five starts before landing on the DL, would be limited to 65 to 70 pitches, depending on how well he felt.
“It’s so boring sitting on the bench,” Hamels told the Phillies’ official Web site. “If you lose and all of a sudden you’re out, it’s something that you don’t want to happen, because you know you can be a big part of helping the team out.”
Hamels is 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA in three career starts against the Cardinals, including 1-0 with a 5.00 ERA in two outings this season.
Phillies slugger Ryan Howard, who grew up in suburban St. Louis, hit a grand slam and a solo homer on Monday and is 21-for-58 (.362) with six homers and 17 RBIs in 14 career games against the Cardinals, hitting safely in each of those contests. Philadelphia has 11 homers in its last four games against St. Louis.
“You try and score as many runs as you can,” Howard said Monday. “In this case, we really needed it.”
Ryan Ludwick homered Monday for the Cardinals, and Rick Ankiel had a sacrifice fly for his first RBI since reports surfaced that he purchased human growth hormone in 2004. Ankiel hit two homers and had seven RBIs on Sept. 6 against Pittsburgh, but was 4-for-33 over the next 10 games.
“It was one of the better almosts that I can remember in all the years I’ve managed,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of the near-comeback.
La Russa will give Todd Wellemeyer (3-3, 5.16 ERA) his first start since July 8 on Tuesday.
Wellemeyer, who is 3-1 with a 4.46 ERA in eight starts this season, has made five relief appearances since a stint on the DL with a right elbow strain, allowing two runs in 7 2-3 innings but losing his only decision.
He has made four career relief outings against the Phillies, allowing two runs in 5 2-3 innings without getting a decision, but has not faced them this season.