The St. Louis Cardinals are hoping Shelby Miller's extended break will pay dividends down the road.
Jonathan Pettibone has been doing his part lately to help the Philadelphia Phillies' hopes of making a run at the postseason.
These rookie right-handers open a three-game series Tuesday night in St. Louis, where the Phillies have enjoyed some recent success.
Miller (9-6, 2.92 ERA) will pitch for the first time since allowing three runs over five innings without a decision in a 5-4 victory over Houston on July 10. He is third on the Cardinals (59-37) with 104 2-3 innings.
"If you look at it, it's pretty smart,' Miller said. "I don't know innings-wise, but the most I've thrown hasn't been a ton in my career. I'm over 100 now and I'm trying to get to 180 or so this year not including whatever we do in the postseason, so I think it's just more precautionary and a smart play.'
St. Louis wants to ensure the 22-year-old, who is 5-2 with a 1.93 ERA in nine home outings, will be fresh for an expected deep run in the postseason.
"I think we've all been very clear about having Shelby get as much time as he can and trying to be smart with a young player," manager Mike Matheny said. "He's chomping at the bit to get back out there and that's the way it should be."
Miller, who is 2-0 with a 2.33 ERA in his three starts with at least six days' rest, threw two side sessions in Chicago before the All-Star break and had another one Friday.
He has never faced the Phillies (49-50) and counterpart Pettibone (5-3, 3.89) has never faced the Cardinals.
Pettibone is 2-0 with a 2.79 ERA over his last five starts, yielding one homer over 29 innings. He has posted a 5.65 road ERA compared to a 2.68 home mark.
While St. Louis owns the NL's best record and seems likely to gain a third straight postseason berth, Philadelphia faces sizable gaps in the NL East and wild-card race.
"I feel that everybody's bunched in there and if we were to put together a streak, you definitely can better your position and have a chance," manager Charlie Manuel said. "I believe that. It's up to us to play better and do better."
These teams split four games in Philadelphia in April, and the Phillies have won six of nine in St. Louis - including the playoffs.
The Cardinals are averaging just under five runs per game to lead the NL thanks to clutch hitting evidenced by a major league-best .338 average with runners in scoring position - which would mark the best by any club since 1974.
Allen Craig leads the majors in that department at .489 - which would better former Kansas City star George Brett's .469 mark in 1980 that is currently the highest since 1974. Craig has reached base in 17 straight games, batting .413 with 15 RBIs.
St. Louis has won seven of its last eight at home, taking two of three from San Diego this past weekend.
Philadelphia dropped two of three to the New York Mets over the weekend. Delmon Young, who missed the first series with the Cardinals while recovering from ankle surgery, was 7 for 13.
The Phillies are trying to avoid their first three-game slide since losing five in a row June 7-12.
These clubs are both 10-4 on Tuesdays.
The Associated Press News Service
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