Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals Preview, Friday 9/21, 1:20 CT

Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro hits a single against the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. Credit: Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE

This game, and this series, obviously means a great deal to the Cardinals. They're currently in the lead for the second wild-card spot in the National League, 2½ games ahead of the Brewers. The Cardinals have 12 games remaining, the Brewers 13. Those two teams don't play each other again and St. Louis appears to have the easier schedule, with their next six games against the Cubs and Astros, while the Brewers face the Nationals and Reds. The Cardinals also face the Nats and Reds, while the Brewers play the Astros and Padres, during the season's final week -- but the race could be over by then.

Or not. As we learned last year, late-season playoff races don't always go the way you expect them to.

Have you noticed there's almost nothing above about the Cubs (except in terms of them playing the Cardinals)? That's intentional. The Cardinals are the last playoff contender the Cubs face this year -- I'd expect the Diamondbacks, on the fringes of the race 5½ games behind, to be eliminated by the time the Cubs get there a week from today. That's about all I've got. Oh, and it might rain today.

Cubs lineup:

DeJesus CF, Barney 2B, Rizzo 1B, Soriano LF, Castro SS, Valbuena 3B, Castillo C, Sappelt RF, Volstad P

Cardinals lineup:

Jay CF, Beltran RF, Holliday LF, Craig 1B, Molina C, M. Carpenter 3B, Kozma SS, Descalso 2B, C. Carpenter P
Today's Starting Pitchers
Chris Volstad
Chris Volstad
Cubs
vs. Chris Carpenter
Chris Carpenter
Cardinals
3-10 W-L making
6.26 ERA his
55 SO 2012
40 BB season
13 HR debut
vs. StL -- vs. Cubs

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2012 - Chris Volstad 3-10 18 18 0 0 0 0 96.1 116 69 67 13 40 55 6.26 1.62

Chris Volstad faced the Cardinals April 25 at Wrigley Field and had a typical early-season Volstad start -- five decent innings, then a blowup in the sixth that included a home run by David Freese. Volstad had four good starts in a row before having a bad one Sunday against the Pirates. In short, who knows?

Chris Carpenter is pitching for the first time since the 2011 series. He's missed the whole season so far due to something called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Don't expect me to explain it. The Cardinals must think he's OK -- he was at one time expected to be out for the year, if not for his career -- or they wouldn't put him into the heat of a playoff race. He faced the Cubs three times last year, posting a 2.74 ERA and allowing no home runs in 23 innings. Current Cubs are hitting .301 (28-for-93) against him with two HR (Alfonso Soriano). I really have no idea what to expect from Carpenter, and I wonder if the Cardinals do.

Today's game is on CSN Chicago.

Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Cardinals site Viva El Birdos.

Today's first pitch thread will post at 1:20 p.m. CDT and the overflows at 2:20, 3:20 and 4:05 p.m. CDT. If you need more overflows due to extra innings or rain delays, post them in the fanshot section. Also please note: due to some under-the-hood changes, the sidebar box with the game thread links is no longer available. It seems you've found them with no problems, but if you haven't been able to find the overflow threads, click the "Chicago Cubs Game Threads" link under "Sections" on the left sidebar. They're all in there.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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