The Vertical sources:

Phillies-Cardinals Preview

AP - Sports

After struggling for most of the season, the Philadelphia Phillies are suddenly in an offensive groove.

Given A.J. Burnett's recent struggles at Busch Stadium, they'll likely need to keep producing Friday night against the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Phillies (33-38) were seven games out of first place in the NL East on June 8 and ranked 25th in the majors with 3.9 runs per game. They've since won eight of 10 - including a season-best four in a row - while averaging 4.8 runs to move four back of division-leading Washington.

While Thursday's 4-1 victory at St. Louis was a more tempered output, Philadelphia had scored 21 runs in its three-game sweep of Atlanta earlier in the week.

Ryan Howard has nine RBIs in his last four games after hitting his 14th homer and driving in three runs Thursday. The St. Louis native is also a .374 career hitter with 38 RBIs in 27 games at Busch Stadium

"It's always good to be able to come back home and play in front of family and friends," Howard said.

Philadelphia figures to add some more depth to its lineup Friday with Cody Asche expected to be activated from the disabled list. Asche hit .258 with four homers and 18 RBIs in 40 games but hasn't play since May 22 due to a strained hamstring.

Unlike Howard, Busch Stadium has been unkind to Burnett (4-6, 4.17 ERA). He's 1-2 with a 13.50 ERA in four career starts there - all since 2012.

However, he looks to have turned a corner in his last two starts overall, allowing five runs in 15 1-3 innings after going 1-4 with a 7.25 ERA in his previous six. He took the loss Sunday, though, yielding three runs over eight innings in a 3-0 defeat against the Cubs. Burnett, whose 4.1 walks per nine innings marks his second-highest rate since 2004, didn't walk a batter for just the second time in 15 starts this season.

The Cardinals (39-34) have dropped two in a row after winning eight of nine, but figure to have a good chance to get back on track with Jaime Garcia (3-0, 3.72) on the mound.

Garcia has won back-to-back starts while allowing one run over 14 innings, though he'll likely be looking to reduce his walks after they got him in trouble his last time out. Both of the free passes he issued over seven innings of Sunday's 5-2 win over Washington came in the fifth inning, when he walked in the only run charged against him.

The left-hander had no walks in his first four starts before walking five in his last two.

"The goal is to never give in, always continue to make pitches no matter what the situation is behind you," he told the team's official website.

Garcia has yielded eight earned runs over nine innings while losing his last two matchups with the Phillies. He had dominated them in four previous starts, posting a 0.96 ERA.

The first four hitters in Philadelphia's lineup Thursday - Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley and Howard - were 6 for 16 and scored all four runs, but are a combined 6 for 39 (.154) against Garcia.

Rollins has recorded exactly one hit in 13 straight games - his longest hit streak since a 14-gamer in his 2007 NL MVP season.

Matt Carpenter is 9 for 21 against Burnett with two doubles and two triples.

View Comments (4)