St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Dakota Hudson has regained full arm strength after recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he hasn’t regained his command.

The quest continues Saturday when St. Louis hosts the Philadelphia Phillies in the second game of a four-game series. The Phillies won the opener 2-0 on Friday night for their sixth victory in eight games. The Cardinals fell for the fifth time in six games.

Hudson (6-5, 4.29 ERA) lost his last start 6-3 at Atlanta on Monday. He allowed six runs on nine hits and three walks in four innings, leaving Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol frustrated.

“It’s the big leagues,” Marmol said. “It’s about performance. This isn’t a tryout. I think we would agree — and he would say — that we need better. That’s where we’re at.”

Hudson hasn’t pitched more than five innings in his past four starts. In three of his past five outings, he allowed five or more runs while struggling to locate his pitches.

“My arm is moving again, so it’s trying to regrasp that,” Hudson said. “I’ve had some adjustments, bullpen to bullpen. My sinker has been in the zone the last couple of outings. It’s just getting everything in the zone.”

Marmol wants to see Hudson working to get ground-ball outs rather than swings and misses. Hudson has consistently fallen behind in counts while trying to get hitters to chase pitches out of the strike zone.

“He doesn’t have to get chase to get outs,” Marmol said. “That’s rare. He can get outs in the zone without having a high in-zone swing-and-miss rate. It should play, and it’s not. And a lot of it is making adjustments and not falling behind (in the count). Then you’re just constantly hoping that contact is made and someone is standing behind the baseball.”

Hudson is 1-1 with a 2.45 ERA in two career starts against the Phillies, both of those games coming in 2019.

The Phillies will counter Hudson with Kyle Gibson (4-3, 4.91 ERA). Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson pushed Gibson’s start back a day, flipping him and Zack Wheeler in his rotation order. Wheeler pitched seven scoreless innings for the win on Friday.

Gibson struggled in his latest start, allowing four consecutive homers in the first inning of a game the Phillies eventually lost 7-6 to the Cardinals on July 2. Nolan Arenado, Nolan Gorman, Juan Yepez and Dylan Carlson combined for that power surge.

Overall, Gibson yielded six runs on seven hits and two walks in four-plus innings.

“I was awfully proud of him, to tell you the truth,” Thomson said. “Gives up four straight home runs and five runs in the first inning, I think a lot of guys would have shut it down right there, but he kept battling and gave us four innings and went into the fifth.”

In his start prior to that one, Gibson lasted just 2 2/3 innings while allowing five runs on four hits and three walks in a no-decision against the San Diego Padres.

“Two starts in a row I’ve kind of put the team in a tough spot early in the game,” Gibson said.

Gibson is 0-1 with an 8.20 ERA in two career starts against the Cardinals.

The Phillies activated right-hander Michael Kelly from Triple-A Lehigh Valley ahead of the weekend series after demoting left-hander Bailey Falter. The Cardinals activated Genesis Cabrera from the COVID-19 injured list and optioned reliever James Naile to Triple-A Memphis.

–Field Level Media