The Philadelphia Phillies could be without star outfielder Bryce Harper again Sunday when they face the visiting St. Louis Cardinals in the rubber match of a three-game series.
Harper is listed as day-to-day after being held out of Saturday's contest with soreness in his lower back, and manager Joe Girardi said the Phillies are going to be cautious. Harper played through back soreness and struggled at the plate during the final month of last season.
"It's something that we have to watch and stay on top of," Girardi said. "I told him, 'Look. Let's get this right. Let's not try to fight through this because we have such a long season. Last season was a sprint. This season is a marathon, and we want you feeling good when you're out there.' "
Harper is batting .238 with two home runs and six RBIs in 13 games for the Phillies, who have lost six of eight since opening the season with a 5-1 mark.
St. Louis evened the series with a 9-4 win on Saturday behind a monster day from catcher Yadier Molina, who went 3-for-5 with two homers and four RBIs.
Nolan Arenado and Paul DeJong also homered for the Cardinals, who have homered in 17 straight games at Citizens Bank Park, setting the longest home run streak by a visiting team in the stadium's history.
The Phillies look to bounce back behind ace right-hander Aaron Nola (0-1, 3.45 ERA), who has pitched well in his first three outings but is still seeking his first victory. The 27-year-old allowed three runs with seven strikeouts over five frames in last Tuesday's 4-0 loss to the New York Mets.
Arenado is 3-for-8 against Nola, who is 4-2 with a 2.35 ERA in six career starts against St. Louis.
Cardinals starter John Gant (0-1, 3.00) pitched five innings and gave up three runs in last Monday's 5-2 loss to Washington. The 28-year-old right-hander owns a 4.76 ERA in four career games (two starts) versus Philadelphia.
Gant, who has shuffled between the rotation and the bullpen since making his debut with Atlanta in 2016, enters Sunday's contest with a homerless innings streak of 44 1/3 innings dating back to July 18, 2019.
St. Louis has had only one starter (Jack Flaherty) pitch at least six innings in a start this year, and that came back on April 7 against Miami.
Cardinals second baseman Tommy Edman carries a career-high 12-game hitting streak into the series finale and has emerged as the team's regular leadoff hitter.
"I think it's good to have some consistency knowing that I'm going to be leading off pretty much every game," Edman said. "Obviously having those two guys, Goldschmidt and Arenado behind me, I think allows me to get a lot of good pitches to hit, which leads to me being able to get on base a lot."
The Phillies are hoping for a similar spark from outfielder Andrew McCutchen, who has batted leadoff in 12 of their first 14 games. The 34-year-old was batting .139 through his first 12 games but is 3-for-8 with three RBIs in his last two contests.
Philadelphia could have new arrival Mickey Moniak in the lineup Sunday in center field against a right-hander. Moniak is replacing Adam Haseley, who left the team on Wednesday for personal reasons.
--Field Level Media