The Philadelphia Phillies’ fifth straight NL East title is official, and it’s just a matter of time until they clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The St. Louis Cardinals, meanwhile, are running out of chances to join them.
A day after the Phillies wrapped up their fifth consecutive division crown, they’ll try to deal another devastating blow to the Cardinals’ fading postseason hopes Sunday night by sending Cole Hamels(notes) to the mound.
Philadelphia (98-52) missed out on a chance to win the East with Friday’s 4-2, 11-inning loss - one that pulled St. Louis within 3 1/2 games of Atlanta in the wild-card race.
The Phillies weren’t about to let another opportunity slip by Saturday. Jimmy Rollins(notes) had four hits, Shane Victorino(notes) homered and had three RBIs and Raul Ibanez(notes) capped a 9-2 rout with a grand slam as Philadelphia clinched a division title six games sooner than it ever had before.
“It’s an extraordinary effort,” team president David Montgomery said. “Clearly, it’s a team that has its priorities in order.”
The next priority is securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which could happen Sunday with a win and a Milwaukee loss, but it’s St. Louis that should be far more desperate to come away with a win in this nationally-televised showdown.
Losing to the Phillies wasn’t the only thing that went against the Cardinals, who fell to 18-42 when scoring three runs or fewer. The Braves and Brewers won as well, dropping St. Louis 4 1/2 games behind wild-card leading Atlanta and 6 1/2 behind Central-leading Milwaukee.
The Cardinals (82-69) finish with series against the Mets, Cubs and Astros, but two more losses in this four-game set could all but end their chances before getting to play those also-rans.
On Sunday, St. Louis has the unenviable task of getting Hamels (14-8, 2.71 ERA) off a poor performance. The lefty gave up five runs and nine hits over five innings Tuesday in a 5-2 loss at Houston.
Hamels has done as good a job as anyone bouncing back from rough starts. In his subsequent outings after the three starts in which he’s allowed four runs or more this season, Hamels is 3-0 with a 0.78 ERA.
A 15th win from Hamels would lend another piece of history to the Phillies’ season. He’d join Roy Halladay(notes) (18) and Cliff Lee(notes) (16) as Philadelphia’s first trio with 15 victories apiece since Chris Short, Jim Bunning and Larry Jackson in 1966.
Hamels is 2-2 with a 3.00 ERA in eight career starts versus St. Louis, and his most recent one was his best. He limited the Cardinals to a Matt Holliday(notes) single over eight dominant innings July 22, 2010, at Busch Stadium.
Chris Carpenter (9-9, 3.80) will get the ball for the Cardinals. While he wasn’t bad Tuesday against Pittsburgh, he wasn’t happy about a pitch that got away. Armed with a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning, the right-hander gave up a two-run homer to Andrew McCutchen(notes) that cost him a victory in a game St. Louis eventually won 6-4.
“I had good stuff (Tuesday),” Carpenter said. “I felt like I did the best I could and I got beat by one pitch late in the game.”
Carpenter had a 5.73 ERA in his first eight career starts versus Philadelphia, but he’s 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA over his last two.