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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Cardinals Series Preview

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Earlier this year, this series looked important. It still is, but not for the Cubs.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals' two rivals for the National League wild-card spots, the Giants and Mets, both won Thursday night while the Cardinals had the day off in Chicago.

Thus the Cardinals now stand out of the wild-card game, third in the standings behind the Giants and Mets, half a game behind.

The Cubs and Cardinals have split the 16 games played so far this year. More on this in the "fun fact."

These games mean little to the Cubs, as they've clinched the N.L. Central title and are very close to wrapping up the league's best record. But I know Joe Maddon will have his guys playing competitive baseball, and I'd think they'd want to help deny the Cardinals a playoff spot if they can possibly do so.

It should be fun times, and a national TV audience will be watching (see below).

Fun fact

The Cardinals are 5-2 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field this year. That's part of an MLB-best 47-31 road record, compared to St. Louis' 33-41 record at Busch Stadium.

Pitching matchups

Friday: Jake Arrieta, RHP (17-7, 2.96 ERA, 1.058 WHIP, 3.55 FIP) vs. Mike Leake, RHP (9-10, 4.54 ERA, 1.295 WHIP, 3.88 FIP)

Saturday: Jason Hammel, RHP (15-9, 3.56 ERA, 1.181 WHIP, 4.40 FIP) vs. Alex Reyes, RHP (3-1, 1.03 ERA, 1.086 WHIP, 2.76 FIP)

Sunday: Jon Lester, LHP (18-4, 2.36 ERA, 1.010 WHIP, 3.40 FIP) vs. Carlos Martinez, RHP (15-8, 3.16 ERA, 1.223 WHIP, 3.64 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago, ESPN (full national broadcast, no blackouts)

Saturday: 12:05 p.m. CT, Fox-TV (regional, coverage map)

Sunday: 7:05 p.m. CT, ESPN

Prediction

The Cardinals seem in something of disarray lately, and I'm sure Joe Maddon will have his troops ready to go in this series which has great meaning to the Cardinals. Alex Reyes is the new big thing and has been tough on everyone he's faced. Carlos Martinez has always been tough on the Cubs, but the Cubs have Jon Lester facing him. This is a key outing for Jake Arrieta to show he's back on track. The Cubs will take two of three.

Up next

The home regular season complete, the Cubs head to Pittsburgh for a four-game series against the Pirates beginning Monday night. (That series, too, looked important earlier in the year; by the time it begins the Pirates could be eliminated from postseason play for the first time since 2012.)