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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Cardinals series preview

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This series feels important.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

This is the Cardinals’ first visit to Wrigley Field this year, after the teams have played twice in St. Louis. The Cubs took two of three the first time, then the Cardinals did the same the second time.

A 3-3 split between two teams mired around the .500 mark seems about right. The Cubs need to start playing better to assert themselves in the division race.

John Fleming of our SB Nation Cardinals site Viva el Birdos has some info about his team.

Following a hot month-long stretch which found them in first place in the NL Central and hanging on to dreams that they could build enough of a division lead to establish breathing room between themselves and the Chicago Cubs before the defending champs regain something approaching 2016 form, the St. Louis Cardinals find themselves gravitating around the .500 mark.

The Cardinals rotation has been a strength this season. Of this weekend’s pitchers, Saturday’s starter Mike Leake has been the best, holding a 2.24 ERA and 3.26 FIP. Lance Lynn, who pitches Friday, has been a bit shaky by defense-independent metrics, but his ERA is a solid 2.93. Sunday’s starter, Michael Wacha, was rumored to be the odd man out of the rotation before top prospect Alex Reyes underwent Tommy John surgery in February, but he has been a decent fifth starter so far in 2017. In the bullpen, Trevor Rosenthal has regained his prime form and could be waiting in the wings if Seung Hwan-Oh falters, but relievers have largely struggled in 2017 — free agent Brett Cecil has had control issues, fellow lefty Kevin Siegrist has been even worse, and Jonathan Broxton was released on Wednesday.

The two best position players this season have been Jedd Gyorko, who began the season as a utility player, and Tommy Pham, who began the season in Triple-A so that Matt Adams could play left field instead. The offense has otherwise struggled, for the most part, as Randal Grichuk was demoted Sunday to High-A and Stephen Piscotty and Jhonny Peralta have been below replacement level.

Both the Cardinals and Cubs should improve, though on paper, the Cubs are still more talented. Picking the Cubs to win two of three seems the safest pick here.

Fun fact

Think the Cubs are on a skid? Since the Cardinals beat the Cubs May 14 in St. Louis, they have lost 10 of their last 15.

Pitching matchups

Friday: John Lackey, RHP (4-5, 5.18 ERA, 1.448 WHIP, 5.04 FIP) vs. Lance Lynn, RHP (4-3, 2.93 ERA, 1.063 WHIP, 4.74 FIP)

Saturday: Jon Lester, LHP (3-3, 3.86 ERA, 1.332 WHIP, 3.48 FIP) vs. Mike Leake, RHP (5-3, 2.24 ERA, 0.937 WHIP, 3.26 FIP)

Sunday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (4-3, 3.75 ERA, 1.162 WHIP, 4.22 FIP) vs. Michael Wacha, RHP (2-3, 3.99 ERA, 1.329 WHIP, 3.50 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and St. Louis markets)

Saturday: 1:20 p.m. CT, WGN

Sunday: 6:35 p.m. CT, ESPN

Prediction

I predict, likely without fear of contradiction, that the loudest ovation ever for a Cardinals player at Wrigley Field will occur before Friday’s game, when Dexter Fowler receives his 2016 World Series ring. The cheers will be well deserved. No matter what he does in his years in St. Louis, he will always be a champion Cub.

I picked a sweep in the Cubs/Padres series... unfortunately, I picked the Cubs to sweep and that was all kinds of wrong. You saw John Fleming’s pick above. Just because I think the Cubs will start playing better at home, I’ll agree with it. Two of three.

Up next

The Cubs host the Miami Marlins in a three-game series beginning Monday evening.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Cardinals?

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    3
    (47 votes)
  • 42%
    2
    (100 votes)
  • 26%
    1
    (63 votes)
  • 10%
    0
    (24 votes)
234 votes total Vote Now