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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Cardinals Series Preview

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You might think this is a "big" series. Someone important to the team doesn't.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

I trust Joe Maddon's judgment and I'm pretty sure you do too. Thus, his quote in this Tribune article is very important to the Cubs' approach to the series with the Cardinals:

"What means a lot is Monday's game," Maddon said. "I will only concede you that. Honestly, I don't look at it in clumps. I won't get into that. I try to stay with the daily approach. I know you are supposed to be more concerned about winning within the division. ... But I want our guys to just really approach the day. That's it."

Wise words from Maddon, I think. Sure, we as fans can ramp up our look at this series because it's the Cubs' biggest rival, but on the field, the team has to approach it one game at a time. Maddon seems to be exactly the kind of manager who can help his players understand that kind of approach.

For the rest of us, here's what we have to look forward to for the next three days at Wrigley Field. The ballpark should be filled, we'll likely see lots of fans dressed in red, and that will give the place lots of energy. I'd think Maddon would enjoy seeing that.

Pitching matchups

Monday: Jon Lester (4-6, 3.74 ERA, 1.329 WHIP, 3.44 FIP) vs. John Lackey (6-5, 3.30 ERA, 1.244 WHIP, 3.44 FIP)

Tuesday (Game 1): TBD vs. TBD

Tuesday (Game 2): TBD vs. TBD

Wednesday: Jason Hammel (5-4, 2.89 ERA, 0.955 WHIP, 3.09 FIP) vs. Michael Wacha (10-3, 2.66 ERA, 1.086 WHIP, 3.17 FIP)

The Tuesday matchups aren't as "TBD" as that might indicate. Jake Arrieta will pitch one of the Tuesday games for the Cubs, but we don't know which one yet. It seems possible that the Cubs could call up Dallas Beeler, who is already on the 40-man roster, to start the other game. Beeler did that in a split doubleheader last year against the Nationals in his major-league debut and threw a nice game. Or, the Cubs could give Edwin Jackson a start. Jackson hasn't pitched since June 27, when he threw two scoreless innings in mop-up work in an 8-1 loss to the Cardinals. I realize the idea of Jackson starting a game terrifies most of you, but he has actually pitched pretty well most of the time this year. Maybe it'd work. If it does wind up being Jackson, the Cubs can still call up an extra pitcher for the doubleheader to be in the bullpen without making another roster move.

The Cardinals, according to this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, will start Tim Cooney and Tyler Lyons in the doubleheader. Cooney had a spot start last Thursday and was supposed to be sent back to Triple-A, but the article says the Cardinals have placed Jaime Garcia on the DL with a groin strain and so Cooney will stay in their rotation.

Prediction

Because of the injury to Garcia, the pitching matchups are more even than the Cubs otherwise might have had. They won't have to face Lance Lynn or Carlos Martinez, which is a good thing. Depending on which game Arrieta starts and who the Cubs go to for the other game Tuesday, the Cubs might have a favorable pitching matchup in three of the four games, and even the Hammel/Wacha matchup is closer than you might think.

The Cubs are just 2-7 against the Cardinals this year, but most of the losing has been done in St. Louis (where the Cubs are 1-6 in 2015). The teams split two games at Wrigley Field in April, with the third being postponed and made up this week. Arrieta shut down the Cardinals on just three hits in that April victory.

I don't see any reason the Cubs can't at least split these four games, so that's what I'm going to call for.

Up next

After a well-deserved off day Thursday, the Cubs host the White Sox for three interleague games at Wrigley Field starting Friday afternoon.