National League Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, May 24th (All times Eastern)
Philadelphia Phillies (22-23) at St. Louis Cardinals (25-19), 8:15 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Philadelphia - Joe Blanton (4-4, 3.74) St. Louis - Jake Westbrook (4-3, 2.41)
(Sports Network) - Even a World Series MVP needs time off to work things out.
Out of the lineup for two days to focus on his swing, St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese, the 2011 World Series MVP, broke out of his slump last night to help his club complete a three-game sweep of San Diego.
Freese will try to stay on the same path that landed him in the record books when the Cardinals commence a four-game home series versus the Philadelphia Phillies this evening in a rematch of last year's NLDS won by St. Louis in five games. Freese, who batted .348 in the World Series with seven RBI, three doubles and a homer, was caught in a 3-for-34 slump that started on May 11. In Wednesday's 6-3 win over the visiting Padres, Freese went 2-for-4 with an RBI single and a homer.
"I slowed everything down mentally, physically," Freese told the Cards' website. "I tried to get back to the basics. I'm not going to over think what happened tonight. I got a couple hits. We won the ballgame, which is obviously the most important thing. But just a refresher [for me], and it was a nice night."
After the Padres jumped on Cardinals' starter Lance Lynn for three runs in the first inning, St. Louis evened the score in the bottom half and Freese was part of the production with a run-scoring base hit. Carlos Beltran belted a two-run homer to break a 3-3 tie and both Skip Schumaker and Mike Adams drove in runs for the NL Central-leading Cardinals, who kicked off a seven-game homestand with the sweep after losing four straight, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Lynn improved to 7-1 and settled down after the shaky first inning. He allowed eight hits, struck out three and issued three walks. Victor Marte, Marc Rzepczynski and Jason Motte tossed a scoreless inning apiece to keep San Diego off the scoreboard. Motte notched his eighth save in the process.
Jake Westbrook will try to capture some consistency when he takes the mound for the defending World Series champions tonight. Westbrook has alternated wins and losses over his previous six decisions and is coming off Saturday's 6-0 loss at Los Angeles in which he surrendered four runs -- two earned -- and six hits in 6 1/3 innings. He fell to 4-3 in eight starts, but still has a decent earned run average of 2.41.
Westbrook, who is 2-1 in four starts at Busch Stadium this season, has faced the Phillies three times in the regular season, going 1-1 with a 3.52 ERA.
Philadelphia has been struggling to plate runs and is still without second baseman Chase Utley (knees) and first baseman Ryan Howard (Achilles). Even the Phillies' pitching staff has struggled, but Cole Hamels has been doing his best to carry the load.
Hamels improved to 7-1 in last night's 4-1 victory over the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park and helped the five-time defending NL East champions avoid a three-game sweep. The left-hander and 2008 World Series MVP threw eight scoreless innings and scattered four hits with eight K's and three walks. He allowed one hit to Bryce Harper, a recipient of an intentional beaning by Hamels back on May 6. There were no fireworks on Wednesday.
"It wasn't even in the back of my mind," Hamels said.
Shane Victorino finished 2-for-3 with a home run and two RBI, Mike Fontenot added two hits and drove in a run and Carlos Ruiz continued his first-half surge with three hits and a run scored. Ruiz batted cleanup for the first time in his career and gave the fans a scare when he took a foul ball off his right wrist. X-rays were negative and he is listed as day-to-day.
"It's a little bit sore, but it's normal," Ruiz told the team's site. "I think I can play [Thursday]."
The Phillies were able to stop a four-game slide, but still sit in the basement of the NL East. They will open a seven-game trek tonight against the Cardinals and New York Mets.
Phillies veteran shortstop Jimmy Rollins is expected to return to the team after missing the Washington series to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Rollins was placed on paternity leave on Tuesday and is one of several hitters struggling at the plate this season. He is batting just .229 on the season with a home run and seven RBI. However, in the 19 games he has played this month, Rollins has gone hitless just five times.
Joe Blanton gets the nod for Philadelphia in tonight's series opener and will try to put his worst start of the season behind him. Blanton was blasted by Boston in Saturday's 7-5 loss to the tune of seven runs -- six earned -- and nine hits, including a career-high four home runs, in a season-low 4 1/3 innings. He fell to 4-4 in nine games (8 starts) with a 3.74 ERA in 2012.
The right-hander was 3-0 in his past four starts before facing the Red Sox and is 1-3 on the road this season. Blanton has made six career appearances (5 starts) against St. Louis, going 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA.
St. Louis won six of nine meetings with the Phillies during the regular season last year and has won two straight and four of the last five encounters.
05/24 10:38:12 ET