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Cards slink home to face Phillies after 0-7 trip

ST. LOUIS -- During their seven-game road trip, the St. Louis Cardinals compiled a couple of firsts no team wants in its media guide.

A 5-2 loss in Cincinnati on Thursday capped the Reds' first four-game sweep of St. Louis at Great American Ball Park since May 2003. It also wrapped up the Cardinals' first 0-7 trip since 2007.

The schedule provides no respite, although it might offer a softer touch. St. Louis comes home to Busch Stadium on Friday night to start a three-game weekend series with the Philadelphia Phillies.

"We have to keep figuring out how to get through something like this," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "In the long run, we're going to snap out of this. We just have to figure out the key. We have to put our head down and ignore the distractions."

St. Louis (26-32) could have experienced a much better road trip if it had been able to hold leads. The Cardinals enjoyed two- or three-run leads in five of the trip's first six games, but weak pitching and the offense's inability to add on proved decision.

A rotation that largely carried the Cardinals in the first 50 games failed to log a quality start in any of the past seven games, pitching to a 7.18 ERA. The bullpen coughed up 11 runs in its past 8 1/3 innings.

Matheny wasn't inclined to heap too much blame on the rotation, which started the road trip boasting three starters among the top 10 in the National League in ERA.

"They've been so good overall that it's hard to take a start or series of starts and blame them," he said. "They've kept us in almost every game."

To break the skid, St. Louis will turn to right-hander Michael Wacha (2-3, 4.67 ERA). He has failed to finish the fifth inning in each of his past three outings, giving up 16 runs (15 earned) in 11 1/3 innings.

Wacha coughed up six runs over 4 1/3 innings Sunday night at Wrigley Field, escaping a loss because the offense tied the game after he departed. He is 1-2 with a 4.82 ERA in three career starts against Philadelphia.

Jeremy Hellickson (5-3, 4.50) takes the mound for the Phillies. He is coming off a no-decision in Philadelphia's 9-7 win Sunday over the San Francisco Giants. He yielded four hits and five runs -- three earned -- over 5 1/3 innings. He walked four and fanned four in a 103-pitch outing.

Hellickson is 2-1 with a 5.03 ERA in three career outings against the Cardinals. He has struggled over his past seven starts, posting a puffy 6.75 ERA. In his first five starts, it was 1.80.

Philadelphia (21-37) comes into town off a 3-1 loss Thursday night in Atlanta, finishing the four-game series with a split. The Phillies' four wins this month are two fewer than they managed in all of May.

The Phillies have received just 13 starts of six innings or longer this year, including a seven-inning outing from rookie Ben Lively on Thursday.

"That's two in a row (for him), seven innings," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said of Lively. "That's what we needed."

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