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Cards score early, often to overwhelm Phillies

PHILADELPHIA -- The best team in baseball played the worst team in baseball Friday night at Citizens Bank Park, and the final score reflected as much.

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The Cardinals (44-23) hit three home runs on their way to a 12-4 victory over the Phillies (23-46). Yadier Molina and Kolten Wong each hit two-run home runs in the second inning against Phillies right-hander Phillippe Aumont, who walked seven and lasted just four innings in his season debut and first Major League start. The scoring continued from there for St. Louis.

Video: [email protected]: Wong drives a two-run homer to right

"We catch some heat sometimes when we can't put up the big offensive numbers," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "But you know with a lineup like this it's going to happen. Are you going to be able to throw up 12 every night? No. But it's in there."

The Phillies have lost 10 of their last 11 games and 22 of their last 27.

"Tough," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "Tough game. You know, not much going right out there tonight. Fell behind early, and with not swinging the bats, it's a tough combination. Yeah, right from the get-go it was a tough game."

Video: [email protected]: Sandberg talks about long night for bullpen

Slump buster: Over their last five games, the Cardinals had been unable to score more than three runs in any contest. But on the back of homers from Molina and Wong, the Cards broke that mark, and they continued to pour it on, including a five-run fifth. More >

Video: [email protected]: Cardinals drive in five in the 5th inning

Randal Grichuk's homer in the sixth capped the scoring for the Cardinals, whose 12 runs and 16 hits were the most they've amassed in a game all season.

Video: [email protected]: Grichuk hammers a solo shot to left-center

"You can't hold these guys down for too long," said infielder Greg Garcia, the Cards' No. 20 prospect who was called up earlier in the day and went 2-for-2 and made a nice defensive play. "There's too many good hitters and good players in this locker room. It's a fun team to watch."

Video: [email protected]: G. Garcia gets two hits, nice grab in callup

Wild, wild Aumont: Aumont simply could not find the strike zone, which has been an issue most of his career. He threw 104 pitches, and only 56 were strikes. He not only walked seven, but he also threw a wild pitch and threw behind Jon Jay in the second inning.

"It was just a constant battle a little bit with myself," Aumont said. "That's what it's been my whole career. Just me, myself and I out there battling. Nobody else. Because when I execute my pitches, I get these guys out down there and up here. Just keep your chest high and keep working at it. The mental part is a big part of the game, and you've got to be strong at it." More >

Video: [email protected]: Aumount fans Grichuk in his first MLB start

Helping the cause: Cardinals starter Tyler Lyons made just as many contributions on offense as he did on defense Friday. He allowed three runs in five innings, all of which came on Ryan Howard's fifth-inning home run, but he counteracted that by crossing the plate three times himself. A career .120 hitter before Friday, the 27-year-old went 2-for-2 with his first career RBI and a walk in three plate appearances, scoring every time he stepped foot on the diamond before Garcia pinch-hit for him in the sixth.

"He had a good all-around day," Matheny said. "It got a little hairy a couple of times, and he was able to pitch his way through it, which is something he hasn't been able to do in the past. He did a nice job of getting those hits. I think the nine hole was up five times today. You do that, things are going pretty good." More >

Video: [email protected]: Lyons helps his own cause with two hits

Howard loves St. Louis: Howard always hits Cardinals pitching well, and his good fortune continued in the fifth inning with his three-run home run to right field. Howard has more home runs (21) and RBIs (64) against the Cardinals than against any other non-NL East team.

Remember the squirrel that appeared at home plate in Game 4 of the 2011 National League Division Series between the Cardinals and Phillies at Busch Stadium? Cards fans turned it into their good-luck charm in their team's run to the World Series title. Another squirrel appeared in the top of the second inning Friday, crawling up the backstop behind home plate before trying to run across the wire down the right-field line. Except the squirrel slipped and fell a long way onto the Phillies' dugout and then jumped into the dugout, prompting players to scatter. More >

Video: [email protected]: Squirrel climbs netting, runs into dugout

"Going forward, we're going to need some starting pitching to help us out so our bullpen guys who are quality bullpen pieces don't get abused out there." -- Sandberg, when asked about the organization's plan to bring No.2 prospect Aaron Nola along slowly. Sandberg then said he understood the strategy about being careful with young pitchers.

Phillies starting pitchers have not earned a win in 24 consecutive games, which is a new franchise record. They set the previous record at 23 games from July 29-Aug. 20, 1961. The Phillies are 4-20 in their current stretch. The '61 Phillies went 0-23 in theirs.

Cardinals: John Lackey makes his 14th start of the season Saturday at 6:05 p.m. CT vs. the Phillies, trying to improve upon his 0-3 record with a 6.27 ERA as the visiting pitcher in 2015. He has been one of the most efficient pitchers in the NL this year, averaging 14.3 pitches per inning, the second fewest in the league.

Phillies: Right-hander Aaron Harang starts Saturday night's 7:05 ET game. Harang has pitched much better than his 4-8 record indicates, but he has struggled recently with a pair of losses to Cincinnati and a loss earlier this week to Baltimore.

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Nick Suss is an associate reporter for Todd Zolecki is a reporter for Read his Phillies blog The Zo Zone, follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast.
Read More: Ryan Howard, Tyler Lyons, Phillippe Aumont, Jhonny Peralta, Mark Reynolds, Yadier Molina, Kolten Wong