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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Cardinals Series Preview

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It's the Cardinals' first visit to Wrigley Field in 2016.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

A little less than a year ago, the Cubs went to St. Louis and got swept by the Cardinals in a three-game series, June 26-28, 2015, and looked bad doing it.

The Cardinals were 51-24. The Cubs were 39-35 and 11½ games out of first place.

Since then, just a bit under a full season's worth of games (155), the Cardinals are 84-71. That isn't bad, but the Cubs are 21 games better over that span -- 105-50.

Also since that series at Busch Stadium, the Cubs have won 10 of 16 against the Cardinals, 13 of 20 if you include the 2015 division series.

What a turnaround. Let's keep it going.

For more on the Cardinals, we turn to John Fleming of our SB Nation Cardinals site, Viva el Birdos:

The Cardinals are comfortably behind the Chicago Cubs for first place in the NL Central, and while a division crown looks increasingly unlikely, they find themselves immersed in a contentious Wild Card battle in which they are very serious contenders.

Although the hot starts of Jeremy Hazelbaker (demoted to Triple-A Memphis on Friday) and Aledmys Diaz (who went from phenomenon in April, to average in May, to struggling in June) turned out to be aberrations of sorts, Matt Carpenter continues to rake, Stephen Piscotty has replicated his seemingly unsustainable hitting prowess from 2015, and after missing the first two months of 2016 with injury, Jhonny Peralta has already proven himself to be a more capable hitter than he was during his sharp downturn during the second half of last season.

While the team's pitching is still nowhere near its level of success from 2015, there is some room for optimism. After an awful start to the season, Adam Wainwright has recently pitched, if not like his old self, like a pitcher who should instill fear in opponents. And Seung-Hwan Oh, a relatively quiet offseason signing out of NPB, has been used in increasingly high-leverage situations as closer Trevor Rosenthal deals with control issues.

Although the Cardinals struggled in home Interleague Play matchups last week, they handily won three games against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park two weekends ago and remain a threat against any club. The Cubs are the superior team and are correctly favorites to win the series, but the Cardinals will rightly expect a competitive series.

Fun fact

The Cardinals are just 4-11 in one-run games this year and their 15 one-run games played is tied for the third-fewest of any team in the majors. (Most: Reds, 27. The Cubs have 18 and are 9-9.)

Pitching matchups

Monday: John Lackey, RHP (7-2, 2.66 ERA, 0.932 WHIP, 2.98 FIP) vs. Jaime Garcia, LHP (4-6, 3.93 ERA, 1.335 WHIP, 3.57 FIP)

Tuesday: Jason Hammel, RHP (7-2, 2.26 ERA, 1.070 WHIP, 3.54 FIP) vs. Adam Wainwright, RHP (5-4, 4.78 ERA, 1.311 WHIP, 3.84 FIP)

Wednesday: Jake Arrieta, RHP (11-1, 1.74 ERA, 0.946 WHIP, 2.47 FIP) vs. Mike Leake, RHP (5-4, 4.08 ERA, 1.151 WHIP, 4.40 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Monday: 7:05 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago

Tuesday: 7:05 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and St. Louis markets)

Wednesday: 1:20 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago

Prediction

The Cubs are on a roll after their sweep of the Pirates and should have favorable pitching matchups for at least two of these games. The Cardinals are reeling after three straight one-run losses to the Rangers, and are on a five-game losing streak overall (which followed a five-game winning streak).

It would be too easy to think the Cubs could sweep the Cardinals based on that. They're always a tough opponent. The Cubs are as well, though, and have been excellent at home this year. Two of three.

Up next

The Cubs travel to south Florida for a four-game series against the Marlins beginning Thursday night.