ST. LOUIS -- The last time the Cardinals and Phillies faced off in the playoffs, the year was 2011. As it turns out, it was the last time for a couple of significant occurrences among the participants for the next decade.
Upset by the Cardinals in a five-game NL Division Series, including a 1-0 classic in the finale, the Phillies would not see the postseason again over the next 10 years. That 2011 season, one in which St. Louis went on to win the franchise’s 11th World Series title, was also the final one before superstar slugger Albert Pujols left St. Louis for Anaheim.
“I’ve thought about that [2011 series] a lot because it literally became like a fork in the road -- one [franchise] went right and one went left,” said Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak. “It was such an epic [Game 5], one of the greatest games any of us had gotten to watch. … For us, it became more of a springboard, and for Philly, it became a turning point for their franchise.”
Now, 11 years after Chris Carpenter outdueled Roy Halladay in that deciding Game 5, the Phillies are back in the postseason, Pujols is back in a uniform that features birds on a bat, and St. Louis and Philadelphia are about to collide in a series that could pack just as much of a punch as the last.
The third-seeded Cardinals, champions of the NL Central, reached the Wild Card Series on the power of MVP candidates Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. Yet it’s the 42-year-old Pujols who has authored one of the feel-good stories of the season. He hit 18 of his 24 home runs after the All-Star break to help the Cardinals enter the playoffs as division champions for the first time since 2019.
“There’s no way we could be in this position without Albert going off,” Cardinals rookie manager Oliver Marmol said. “The evolution of [Pujols’ season] was pretty cool.”
The Phillies feel pretty confident themselves, as they will counter with ace Zack Wheeler (12-7, 2.82 ERA) and a potent lineup that includes NL home run king Kyle Schwarber (46 home runs, 94 RBIs), reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper (18 HRs, 65 RBIs) and slugger Rhys Hoskins (30 homers, 79 RBIs). The 6-foot-4 Wheeler, who will start Game 1, had his way with the Cardinals this season, holding them without an earned run in 14 innings pitched. Overall, the Phillies won the season series, 4-2.
In short, the series seemingly has all the potential of another Cardinals-Phillies classic, much like the one the two teams played 11 years earlier.
When is the game and how can I watch it?
The game is airing live on ABC, with Alex Rodriguez serving as the color analyst for the series and Michael Kay handling play-by-play duties.
All series are available in the U.S. on MLB.TV with authentication to a participating Pay TV provider. Games are not available live internationally (archives are available approximately 90 minutes after the game ends).
What are the starting lineups?
Phillies: With Cardinals left-hander José Quintana on the mound, St. Louis native Matt Vierling will start in center field in Game 1. Brandon Marsh is expected to be back in the lineup in Game 2, with right-hander Miles Mikolas taking the hill for St. Louis.
Cardinals: The Cardinals took off midway through the season when they moved scrappy rookie Brendan Donovan and hard-hitting lefty Lars Nootbaar to the top of the lineup. Marmol also moved the red-hot Pujols up in the order. Paul Goldschmidt slumped down the stretch, but the Cardinals are confident he’ll hit when it matters. Despite his struggles hitting righties, Dylan Carlson is hitting sixth.
Here is the starting lineup for Game 1.
Who are the starting pitchers?
Phillies: Wheeler gets the nod to open the series. He went 12-7 with a 2.82 ERA in 28 starts this season, missing a month late because of tendinitis in his right forearm. When he returned, the Phillies lined up his first start for Sept. 21 because it put him in line to pitch in Game 1. Wheeler allowed one run in 15 innings in three starts after returning from the IL, striking out 15 and walking one. He is 3-2 with a 2.65 ERA in six career starts against the Cardinals and 2-1 with a 2.52 ERA in four career starts at Busch Stadium.
Cardinals: Quintana, who was 2-1 with a spectacular 1.18 ERA over his final seven starts, will get the ball for Game 1. A big selling point for the southpaw: He’s allowed just one home run in 62 2/3 innings for the Cardinals. In addition to not allowing more than two earned runs in a given start as a Cardinal, Quintana has held Harper and Schwarber to a combined 1-for-16 over his career. Don’t be surprised to see the Cardinals use the hard-throwing Jack Flaherty in a piggy-back role with Quintana. Once Quintana has seen the Phillies' lineup, the Cardinals might opt for Flaherty and his 97 mph fastball to change the look for the foe.
How will the bullpens line up after the starter?
Phillies: Everybody is available for the Phillies in Game 1. They did a good job resting the unit after they clinched an NL Wild Card spot on Monday. If the Phillies have a lead in the seventh or eighth inning and need some big outs, right-hander Zach Eflin and left-hander José Alvarado are the two best bets to get them. Alvarado pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings on Monday in Houston. Eflin followed and earned the first save of his career.
Behind Eflin and Alvarado are right-handers Seranthony Domínguez and David Robertson, although both have struggled this month with their command. That makes life a little trickier for Thomson in the late innings in this series because both were solid earlier in the year.
Cardinals: St. Louis received a major scare on Tuesday when lights-out closer Ryan Helsley jammed the middle finger on his pitching hand while trying to catch his balance after a line drive was hit back at him. Helsley, an All-Star for the first time in 2022, threw the ball without pain on Thursday and should be ready to go if called upon on Friday. The Cardinals plan to bolster their bullpen with starters Adam Wainwright, Jordan Montgomery and Flaherty in this series. All three are available out of the ‘pen if needed on Friday.
Any injuries of note?
Phillies: Left-hander Brad Hand (left elbow tendinitis) and infielder Edmundo Sosa (strained right hamstring) are on the IL, but it sounds like both will be activated before Game 1. Hand threw a live BP on Wednesday in Houston, which went well. Sosa participated in live BP on Wednesday in Philadelphia. He no longer feels any issues in his right hamstring when he runs, hits or fields. He was in St. Louis for Thursday's workout, an excellent sign that he will be back.
Cardinals: Reliever Jordan Hicks returned to the active roster on Wednesday and showed that his right arm fatigue is a thing of the past. But the news isn’t so good on outfielder Tyler O’Neill, who ended up on the IL for a third time this season with a left hamstring pull on Sept. 17. The two-time Gold Glover’s progress has been slow, and he isn’t likely to be ready for the Wild Card Series. That loss takes away a power bat, versatile defender and speedy runner from the Cardinals.
Who is hot and who is not?
Phillies: Schwarber is batting .533 (8-for-15) with one triple, four home runs, seven RBIs and a 2.117 OPS in his last five games. Stott is batting .409 (9-for-22) with three doubles, one home run, five RBIs and a 1.117 OPS in his last seven games. Segura is batting .321 (9-for-28) in his last eight games. Harper is batting .227 with three home runs, 17 RBIs and a .676 OPS in 35 games since returning from a broken left thumb. Hoskins is batting .111 with a .416 OPS in his last seven games.
Cardinals: No one in baseball has been as hot over the last two-plus months as Pujols, who hit .323, crushed 18 home runs and had a 1.103 OPS after the break. One of Pujols’ most clutch home runs of the season came on July 10 in a 4-3 win over the Phillies. Goldschmidt had that role of hottest hitter on the planet for the first five months of the season, but he struggled down the stretch. Following a three-hit, two-homer, five-RBI night on Aug. 25, Goldschmidt led the NL in batting average and RBIs and trailed Schwarber by one home run for the lead in that category. However, he hit just .229 with two home runs and 10 RBIs over his last 30 games of the season.
Anything else I should know?
Phillies: Left-hander Ranger Suárez is scheduled to start Game 3, if necessary. But if you’ve watched the Cardinals this season, you know they light up lefties. So there is a decent chance that the Phillies use an opener in Game 3 to try to get through the likes of Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Albert Pujols.
Cardinals: Arenado posted the seventh 30-home run, 100-RBI season of his career in 2022, and a big chunk of his damage came against the Phillies. He hit for the cycle for the second time in his career on July 1 in Philadelphia, and a night later he jump-started a barrage where four Cardinals in a row (Arenado, Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez and Carlson) homered. He clinched that win with another home run. Arenado was 10-for-22 (.455) with a double, a triple, three home runs and six RBIs against the Phillies in six games this season. Goldschmidt was 6-for-24 (.250) and Pujols was 4-for-13 (.308) against Philadelphia.