Cliff Lee, who is 3-1 with a 1.93 ERA in five career starts against the St. Louis Cardinals, starts the middle game of the Phillies' three-game series against the Cardinals. (Philliedelphia/Kevin Durso)
This disaster of a season actually didn't start in 2012. It started on October 7, 2011, when the Phillies were on the wrong end of a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLDS.
Roy Halladay had been out-dueled in one of the great pitching matchups in years. Ryan Howard was carried off the field with a torn Achilles' tendon, derailing the start of his 2012 season. Chase Utley and now former Phillie Raul Ibanez came within inches of spoiling the Cardinals' magical ride.
It wasn't meant to be then, just like it hasn't been meant to be all season.
This weekend seems fitting for several reasons. The Cardinals are in town for the first time since that devastating loss. The Phillies are also holding alumni weekend.
In years past, the Wall of Fame inductee has been somebody from a time when the Phillies were champions of some sort: John Kruk, Darren Daulton, Juan Samuel. This season's inductee is Mike Lieberthal. Lieberthal played for the Phillies from 1994-2006, otherwise known as the 13 seasons in between the Phillies' World Series appearance in 1993 and their first of five straight division titles in 2007.
So, for a player that has caught more games in Phillies history than anyone else, and was a superstar for the team in an era when they were - for lack of a better term - irrelevant. He was never part of a winning team that could call itself a champion. He never played a playoff game. Thus, it is fitting that he enters the Phillies' Wall of Fame in a year that has been so much like the 13 years he was a part of Phillies' baseball.
The Cardinals, however, aren't the team they were last season. They have a solid 60-51 record and are in third place in the NL Central. But it will take another strong, late-season run for them to have a chance to defend their World Series crown.
It certainly is a different team from that of last season. Out with injury for the remainder of the season are Chris Carpenter, the hero of Game 5, and Kyle McClellan. Also on the DL are pitcher Jaime Garcia and first baseman/outfielder Lance Berkman.
But the Cardinals still have one of the best lineups in baseball with Carlos Beltran, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, David Freese, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina.
Their pitching has been excellent too. The Phillies will see their top three pitchers this weekend.
Here are the pitching matchups for the series.
In the opener, Roy Halladay (5-6, 4.02 ERA) goes against Kyle Lohse (12-2, 2.79 ERA) - Halladay was brilliant in his last start, throwing seven shutout innings and allowing just three hits to the Diamondbacks. Since his return from the DL on July 17, Halladay has been solid for the most part. Aside from allowing six runs to the Brewers on July 23, Halladay has allowed three runs or less in each of his three other starts. In his career against the Cardinals (five starts), Halladay is 2-2 with a 3.09 ERA.
Lohse is having the best season of his career, and continued that in his last start by beating the Brewers with six shutout innings. Lohse hasn't lost a game since June 15, but the Phillies did manage three runs (two earned) off Lohse in 6 1/3 innings on May 25. In his career against the Phillies (11 starts), Lohse is 3-4 with a 3.38 ERA.
In the middle game, Cliff Lee (2-6, 3.78 ERA) faces Jake Westbrook (11-8, 3.76 ERA) - Lee allowed four runs in eight innings in his last start, good enough to earn a no-decision despite allowed all four runs on three Diamondbacks' home runs. He allowed three runs over seven innings in a no-decision on May 25 against the Cardinals. In his career against the Cardinals (five starts), Lee is 3-1 with a 1.93 ERA.
Westbrook allowed two runs over six innings in his last start, a win, against the Giants. He was hit hard by the Phillies on May 24, when he allowed six runs in 3 2/3 innings in the Phillies' 10-9 win over the Cardinals. In his career against the Phillies (four starts), Westbrook is 1-1 with a 5.68 ERA.
In the finale, Vance Worley (6-7, 3.83 ERA) gets the start against Lance Lynn (13-5, 3.52 ERA) - Worley struggled in his last start, giving up four runs in 3 2/3 innings to the Braves in the Phillies' 6-1 loss. Worley has made one career start against the Cardinals, allowing one run over six innings in a no-decision.
Lynn suffered his first loss since June in his last start, allowing four runs in six innings to the Giants. Prior to that, Lynn had won three of his last five starts. Lynn has never made an appearance against the Phillies.
August 10 - Phillies 5, Cardinals 4
August 11 - Phillies 6, Cardinals 3
August 12 - Phillies 2, Cardinals 5
The Phillies seem to have a perfect recipe for a win in the middle game and a perfect recipe for a loss in the finale. Cliff Lee has excellent numbers against the Cardinals and the Phillies have had success against Westbrook which bodes well for the Phillies.
Meanwhile, Worley has struggled lately, while Lynn, who does allow his fair share of runs, is an unknown pitcher to the Phillies' lineup.
The first game comes down to two factors: which Roy Halladay shows up and which Kyle Lohse shows up. The Phillies can hit Lohse, there's no question about that. Halladay also hasn't been the same pitcher he was in season's past this season. But, he showed signs that he was returning to form in his last start. If this start is anything like that, the Phillies will win.
This won't be a three-hit shutout, but if Halladay can hold the Cardinals off the board for most of the night, the Phillies should be able to do some damage against Lohse, enough damage to pull out a win.
The Phillies are playing to be spoilers and playing for pride. Plus, you have to think guys like Halladay and Lee have a chip on their shoulder for the way last season ended. Even if they won't get to redeem themselves in the Postseason this year, they can still take it out on the opponent that ended the 2011 season. Perhaps a couple of great pitching performances are in store.
Kevin Durso is a contributor for Philliedelphia. You can follow him on twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.