Phillies (7-11) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (10-7)

Coverage starts at 7:00 p.m. on 97.3 ESPN

Win today, and the Phillies are back to within three games of .500, with a four-game set with the just-about-even Pittsburgh Pirates in the hopper for Monday.

Lose, and they fall five games under even for the first time this early since 2007.

A loss today would be the Phillies seventh in nine games, and fourth series loss in six. For the Cards, a win would be win No. 8 of 11 and their fifth series win in six.

Can-drick

Kendrick is coming off the best performance of his career, a two-hitter in seven scoreless innings in Game 2 in Cincinnati.

If he got the chance in the fifth inning with two outs, the bases loaded and Billy Butler due up in the home opener – Butler unloaded the bases on Chad Durbin – Kendrick could be 3 for 3 in going six innings or more and surrendering two runs or fewer in 2013.

The 28-year-old righty has been money against St. Louis in his career. One start in 2010 aside, he’s 5-0 with a 1.25 ERA lifetime. (As for that one litte start, he served seven runs in five innings.) His last time out, in May 2012? A complete game shutout.

Kendrick’s done his best work vs. Phillie-killer Yadier Molina (2 for 11). Matt Holliday’s 3 for 20 all-time. Carlos Beltran (7 for 26) and David Freese (3 for 6) have fared better.

The Other Guy

Westbrook was one of five ML starters to open 2013 with scoreless outings. Then came the four runs in two innings he served in Pittsburgh last week, swept away by rain.

His performance seems inflated, and while his .212 BABIP isn’t too crazy for a small sample, that and his 4.62 FIP suggest serious luck has fingerprints on his early going.

Westbrook will work five pitches, a fastball, slider, cutter, change and split, with great ground ball success. If it qualified, his 63.3 GB% would rank second-highest in baseball. The vertical movement on his slider (4.5) is about that of Bronson Arroyo’s (4.4) fourth-most in baseball, which worked out pretty well for the Reds in the series opener.

The 35-year-old right-hander this year hasn’t allowed a hit to first-, second- and sixth-hole hitters (0 for 19), while middles of the orders are .300 (6 for 20) against him.

He’s also been hittable for lefties, who’ve got a .276/.400/.310 line against him.

Against the Phillies, he’s 2-1 with a 4.39 ERA in five career starts, all since 2011, with his one of his latest being his worst: six runs in 3 2/3 innings in St. Louis on May 24 last year. He followed that up with a one-run-in-seven-innings outing that August at CBP.

Another reason Laynce Nix should start: he’s 4 for 11 with a home run and a double lifetime vs. Westbrook, while John Mayberry is hitless in four career at-bats. Michael Young (11 for 27), Jimmy Rollins (6 for 15) and Ryan Howard (2 for 5) are over .400.

Bumps and Bruises

Manuel said yesterday he expects Howard to start today, after getting an extra day to rest a groin strain on Saturday. Howard also sat out Game 2 on Friday.

Also

Young bumped his hit streak to 11 games with a ninth-inning single yesterday after three straight strikeouts. He’s hitting 14 for 38 during the streak.

Ben Revere is 3 for 9 with two runs scored and a triple since sliding to the seven-hole in the series opener on Thursday. He’d hit .193 over 15 games prior at the leadoff spot.