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Rookie Power - Jeremy Hazelbaker Had Luke Weaver's Back, But Cardinals Fall Short In 4-2 Loss To Phillies

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Rookie Luke Weaver fans six in Cardinals loss to Phillies.
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis Cardinals rookie starer Luke Weaver was one day shy of his 23 birthday making his second major league appearance. Facing Philadelphia Phillies Jeremy Hellickson, a six year veteran with a strong arm. He's finding life the the majors is a whole new breed; but, very serious about his time on the hill and is learning as he goes. Even though holding a 5.00 ERA, I'm very impressed with this young hurler. His determination and conviction is evident while he's on the mound. He doesn't give up and, in my opinion, will make slight adjustments to be the best he expects himself to be. He's solid and "has it between the ears" in maturity. 

In his stand last night, the Phillies did get the best of him early in the game. In the first, Weaver gave up a solo home run, 0-1 count, to lead-off Cesar Hernandez. Fifth batter up, Cameron Rupp, connected for a RBI single. The Phillies worked him to 31 pitches in his first of his total 96 in his five frames. Even though, he threw 65 strikes.  

Cardinals lead-off Jeremy Hazelbaker had his back. Cardinals fans found out that not only is this 'kid' going to be a very good pitcher once he gets his major league 'sea legs' in place; but, he can hit. Weaver, top of the order, slugged out a single up the center in the third. Hazelbaker followed to the plate. Hellickson had one out on the board and Hazelbaker had struck out swinging in the first. Not this time on Hellickson watch. He connects on his 1-1 pitch for a high flyer into deep left for a two-run homer to tie the game. 

And Weaver, he was 2-2 at the plate with one run. He held the Phillies scoreless in his next three frames. With his tremendous concentration, he orchestrated one smooth move for a 1-5-3 double play to close his fourth inning.      

I was trying to think when our more seasoned starters followed through with such ease. Coming into his fifth, he still had hope of getting his first major league win. However, in his final inning, he saw the Cardinals tie disappear on a RBI single to Maikel Franco. In his five innings, he gave up 1 HR/3 ER with nine hits allowed, fanned six and no walks issued. His game will come together; and, I feel sooner than later. 

Jonathan Broxton followed Weaver. Before he took down three straight hitters, he was stung with a solo shot by top-of-the-order Aaron Altherr to give the Phillies a two run lead. Zach Duke and rookie Sam Tuivailala, redeeming his last appearance, held the Phillies to no further damage. However, Weaver was handed his first loss in the majors; while, Hellickson earned his tenth win with 1 HR/2 ER/1-BB/8 SO. Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez earned his 33 save. Other than Hazelbaker's offensive support for the Cardinals rookie starter, they were unable to bring another run in. They had nine hits, and left five stranded in the 4-2 loss. 

SPLIT SERIES - RUBBER MATCH THIS AFTERNOON AT 12:35 CST 

Cardinals Mike Leake (8-9/4.78 ERA) will face Phillies Vince Velasquez (8-5/4.14 ERA). Leake has seen better starts previous to his last three this month. Pitching a total of 17 innings with giving up 13 earned runs in two road games and one at home. He faced the Phillies, May 4, at Busch Stadium, allowing 2 HR/4 ER; however, the Cardinals did get the 5-4 win. Leake will definitely be looking to improve facing the Phillies; and the offense needs to improve over their performance last night. Which, may be a task for them. They face yet another "unknown" to their offense with Velasquez' debut facing the Cardinals. He has one season with the Phillies and is 4-2/2.39 ERA at home this season, with 70 strikeouts and only issuing 19 walks in his 52.2 innings pitched. 

I believe the Cardinals line-up today will be "lefty heavy" against Velasquez. From the left, hitters have only held a .283 BA; but, .356 OBP/.467 SLG/.823 OPS. From the right, a tick under at .245/.304/.406/.710. He has given up 7 HR/14 ER on 35 hits allowed. In a total of 84 at-bats, the Phillies history against Leake, .268/.326/.463/.789. This could prove to be a great pitching match-up; OR, an extremely exciting offensive game. 

PERSONALLY - MOVE MATT CARPENTER BACK TO LEAD-OFF

Personally, for the Cardinals line-up, I would really like to see Matt Carpenter back in his lead-off role. Since Matt Holliday went to the DL due to surgery on his right thumb, Carpenter has been moved to the third spot for this series against the Phillies. He has had seven hits and one double for a .269 BA batting third this season. As lead-off, 15 HR/54 RBI on 89 hits for a .294 BA/.411 OBP/.568 SLG/.979 OPS. Just sayin'. 

CARDINALS BRANDON MOSS RETURNED TO THE LINE-UP

Moss had been held out of Game One against the Phillies due to "flu-like symptoms". He did make an appearance late in the game as pinch hitter, 0-1 AB. He was in the line-up for last night's game; but, still did not seem 100%, 0-4 AB. But that 'Moss energy' was missing. I'm in hopes that all is well with him today bringing along his 'charged and energized bat' for the offense. After all, the every day first baseman, has become one of Cardinals best "lefties". With a .262 BA/22 HR/54 RBI; and, the rest of his offensive slash line - .339 OBP/.570 SLG/.908 OPS. Matt Carpenter in lead-off, Moss in the three hole ... fill-in the blanks from there. 

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