Game Day Preview: Phillies (48-43) at Cardinals (51-41)

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Kevin McAlpin covers the Phillies for 97.5 The Fanatic.  You can follow him on Twitter(@KevinMcAlpin) 

After dropping three out of four at Wrigley, the Phillies road trip continues tonight against the Central-leading Cardinals.  Despite averaging just shy of five runs per game, the Cubs outscored the Phillies 28-19 and took the series three-games-to-one.  Jayson Werth continues to struggle at the plate and struck out nine times in 14 at-bats over the weekend.  However, the news wasn't all negative this weekend.  Placido Polanco is back in the starting line-up and Ryan Howard's getting hot.  Over the past nine games, Howard has gone deep six times and has driven in 13.  Tonight, Howard's back in his hometown to face a Cardinals club who enters with a five-game win-streak.  In 17 games against the Cards, Howard is a torrid .381 with seven homers and 29 RBI.

Kyle Kendrick (5-3, 4.44) gets the nod tonight in his first start of the second-half.  Thursday, Kendrick tossed a scoreless fifth inning at Wrigley as the Phillies dropped the series opener to the Cubs 12-6.  In his last start, Kendrick went six-and-two-thirds against the Reds at Citizens Bank Park, giving up just one run on three hits.  Coming into tonight, the 25-year-old Kendrick is a perfect 4-0 lifetime against St. Louis with a 1.67 ERA.  On May 5, Kendrick kept the Red Birds off the board, giving up just six hits over seven innings as the Phils won 4-0.  The Cardinals counter with Blake Hawksworth (3-5, 4.73) who's making just his sixth start of the season.  Hawksworth started the season in the Cards bullpen and took the loss on May 4 as Carlos Ruiz ripped a walk-off home run in the 10th inning to give the Phils a 2-1 win.  Hawksworth doesn't have much experience against the Phillies as he's just 0-1 with an ERA close to 8.

With 12 days left until the trade deadline, the next three series could very well determine whether the Phillies are buyers or sellers.  The Phillies enter play tonight five-and-a-half games behind the division leading Braves, but just two games behind the Wild Card front-running Rockies.

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