They learned the next step by polishing off an Atlanta Braves collapse late Wednesday night. It's the St. Louis Cardinals who will face the Phillies in the best-of-five National League division series that begins Saturday at 5:07 p.m. at Citizens Bank Park.
The Cardinals, winners of 21 of their final 29 games, are the hottest team in baseball. They defeated the Phillies in six of nine regular-season games, but the Phillies rarely fielded their top lineup in those games.
Only Rollins started all nine of those games. The two times the Phillies played St. Louis with their regular lineup, they won, 10-2 and 9-2.
Nonetheless, the Cardinals present a threat because of their powerful lineup and solid starting pitching.
"They're a challenge for us," Manuel said. "They have good hitters, but, at times, they can be a little weak on defense. Their bullpen has talent, big arms, but they were kind of inconsistent. It was kind of a weakness so far, but they do have a lot of talent. So you never know when their bullpen is going to be good."
Two developments in St. Louis could help the Phillies' chances even more. All-star outfielder Matt Holliday did not play in the team's final game and could miss Game 1 with a tendon strain in his right middle finger.
And manager Tony La Russa reportedly decided to not start Jaime Garcia, the lefty who has tormented the Phillies in the past, until Game 4. The Cardinals will pitch Kyle Lohse, Edwin Jackson, and Chris Carpenter before Garcia, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
"They'll see our best shot," La Russa said Wednesday. "That's why you keep score. They're a very special group, and the way they competed, no matter the outcome, tells you a lot about what they've got there."
Garcia has a career 1.20 ERA in 30 innings against the Phillies and has allowed two runs in 13 innings at Citizens Bank Park. But, apparently, the Cardinals are concerned with his lofty road ERA (4.61) this season. So he will pitch at Busch Stadium.
The Phillies will take confidence in being undefeated with their regular lineup since the Hunter Pence trade. Granted, they have used that lineup only seven times, but it has averaged six runs in those games.
And, of course, the Four Aces are intact to combat a red-hot St. Louis offense that scored 27 more runs than any other NL team this season.
"A lot's going to be made of the fact that we played pretty well against the Phillies this year, but when the playoffs roll around, it's a different story," Lance Berkman said. "We just have to come out and try to be the team we were in the last month of the year. If we do, I think we have a chance."
Umps named. Jerry Layne, a 23-year major-league umpire, is the crew chief for the series. Chris Guccione, Jerry Meals, Angel Hernandez, Gary Cederstrom, and Chad Fairchild will comprise Layne's crew.
Contact staff writer Matt Gelb
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