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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Cardinals series preview

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It’s back to divisional play for the Cubs, where they have done well this year.

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Once again, since the Cubs have an off day before a series that begins with a day game at Wrigley Field, I thought you might like to have a series preview to begin discussing the weekend set against the Cardinals.

I asked John Fleming, editor at our SB Nation Cardinals site Viva el Birdos, to update us on his team.

Over halfway through the season, the St. Louis Cardinals still haven't forged much of an identity, which is both a good and bad thing. On one hand, their lack of star power is a bit concerning (the team's Wins Above Replacement leaders are still Jedd Gyorko, who began 2017 as a backup to Jhonny Peralta, and Tommy Pham, who began 2017 in AAA), but they also don't have any major holes: they are within the vicinity of average as measured by offense, defense, base running, starting pitching, and relief pitching.

Because they currently sit in fourth place, outside the playoffs but with a puncher's chance, and don't have many expiring contracts, the Cardinals are not clearly positioned to be buyers nor sellers. Three games against the Cubs, a team most fans still fear more than the first-place Brewers, may determine if soon-to-be free agent Lance Lynn, or even cost-controlled talent such as Trevor Rosenthal, will be traded before July 31.

On Friday, Carlos Martinez, who in his last start bounced back from a rough two-game stretch prior to a dominant All-Star Game cameo, takes the mound. Saturday brings Adam Wainwright, certainly not the ace he once was but still capable of solid, middle of the rotation level performances.Sunday's projected starter Michael Wacha is a bit of a wild card: he has decent numbers, particularly with his peripherals, but his 119 pitches in a complete game shutout on Tuesday could be cause for concern for the oft-fatigued starter.

The most 2017 Cardinals series outcome would be a 2-1 series loss, followed by a strong week which gives a glimmer of hope right before the deadline. Given that the Cubs are still on paper a better team but have not been a 2016-level juggernaut, this is probably the safe pick.

Fun fact

The Cubs lost two of three in St. Louis in May and then swept the Cards at Wrigley in June. Since that series in May, the Cubs are 31-26 and the Cardinals are 25-33. Only the Reds, Giants and Phillies have worse records than the Cardinals among N.L. teams over that span.

Pitching matchups

Friday: Jake Arrieta, RHP (9-7, 4.17 ERA, 1.287 WHIP, 4.24 FIP) vs. Carlos Martinez, RHP (6-8, 3.36 ERA, 1.143 WHIP, 3.77 FIP)

Saturday: Jon Lester, LHP (6-6, 4.07 ERA, 1.296 WHIP, 3.83 FIP) vs. Adam Wainwright, RHP (11-5, 5.08 ERA, 1.490 WHIP. 4.03 FIP)

Sunday: Jose Quintana, LHP (5-8, 4.20 ERA, 1.266 WHIP, 3.72 FIP) vs. Michael Wacha, RHP (7-3, 3.71 ERA, 1.331 WHIP, 3.32 FIP)

Note: Quintana’s numbers include his 18 starts with the White Sox

Times & TV channels

Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and St. Louis markets)

Saturday: 3:05 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago, FS1 (no blackouts)

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

Prediction

The Cubs are 6-3 against the Cardinals this year and, as noted above, swept the last series between the two teams at Wrigley. The Cubs seem to have the better pitching matchup in two of the three games, so I’m going to agree with John Fleming and call for the Cubs to win two of three.

Up next

The annual four-game set vs. the White Sox begins Monday at Wrigley Field with two day games before a pair of night games on the South Side.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Cardinals?

This poll is closed

  • 42%
    3
    (267 votes)
  • 48%
    2
    (307 votes)
  • 5%
    1
    (33 votes)
  • 3%
    0
    (20 votes)
627 votes total Vote Now