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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Cardinals series preview

The Cubs face their divisional arch-rival in a four-game series.

Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

The Cardinals took two of three from the Cubs at Wrigley in mid-May.

After this four-game series, that’s it for the Cardinals at Wrigley this year, and after four more in St. Louis next weekend, the Cubs won’t see the Cardinals again until May 24, 2024.

I hate the balanced schedule.

For more on the Cardinals, here’s Heather Simon, manager of our SB Nation Cardinals site Viva el Birdos. She has outdone herself again.

“Open your eyes...”

There was a loud ringing in his ear — that was what he noticed first. What he noticed next was the coolness. It was a coolness his brain did not recognize immediately, but as more senses returned he soon remembered the sensation of being in water.

“Open your eyes.”

He definitely heard that. That was clear and unmistakable. A brilliant, blinding light moved into his field of vision as his eyelids slowly parted autonomously. They focused ahead at ceiling he did not recognize.

“Wake up, Nolan.”

The water drained away. He sat up gingerly, half-expecting pain, but was without effort. His muscles felt weak and his energy was drained, but he seemed able to move without too much restriction. He appraised the room before climbing out of the basin he had been lying in. Glowing embers of cobalt blue glowed in a way he did not know was possible. It was a room he had certainly never entered before.

He made his way through the room, searching for the exit. He was not sure how he came to be in this room — he was not sure of anything really — but something told him he needed to leave. He walked down the tunnel and eventually reached the bright, unmistakable light of the outside. The voice spoke to him again.

“Nolan... You are the light — our light — that must shine upon St. Louis once again. Now go.”

He didn’t recognize the voice, but deep inside he knew he could trust it. In a wave of determination he ran towards the light.

This is what happens when you play too much Legend of Zelda, my Bleed Cubbie Blue friends. If you know, you know that I just ripped off the beginning of the Breath of the Wild to use for an analogy for Nolan Arenado’s season thus far. It started out, well, real bad, but the healing water must have done its job. He has 21 home runs, is slashing .288/.338/.528 for a 132 wRC+. He’s back and maybe next series preview he will acquire the Bat that seals the Darkness.

Are the rest of the St. Louis Cardinals back, though? Well... The Calamity was severe and devastating. Paul Goldschmidt has cooled off, but remains the Cardinals’ best hitter. As a team they rank sixth in baseball in wRC+ at 110. The pitching has been the biggest question mark for the Cardinals and I honestly never know what to expect from any pitcher on any given day. Jordan Montgomery has been the top starter. Miles Mikolas has had some shaky starts, but overall his season has been fine. Jack Flaherty walks way too many batters, but if he can get that under control, the rest of his stats look good. As a staff, they don’t really give up a lot of homers, though anecdotally — and this goes back to the curse — it feels like when they do, the timing is devastating.

Basically, this preview is a big IDK, which really kind of fits in with Breath of the Wild, right? What I do know is the National League Central is — well the Brewers are not exactly running away with it. The Cubs are 7½ back, the Cardinals are 10 games back. With a push, it isn’t out of reach for either of them, which makes this series pretty important for both of them and therefore, us! The hope is a little dim, but there is still something to play for and with how this season has gone so far for the Cardinals, that is really all I can ask for.

Fun fact

The Cubs take a .475 winning percentage (45-50) into tonight’s series opener against the Cardinals.St. Louis is at .448 (43-53). They are a combined .461 (88-103).

That is the lowest combined percentage when these two teams have squared off since September 28, 1997, when they closed out that season at St. Louis. The Cubs went into the game at .422 (68-93) and the Cardinals at .447 (72-89) for a combined .435 (140-182).

The fourth-place Cardinals won, 2-1, to finish four games in front of the last-place Cubs.

Since the start of the following season, 1998, the Cubs have a winning percentage in all games of .496; the Cardinals, .551. They have played each other 422 times since 1998, with the Cardinals winning 221 games and the Cubs 201. But the Cubs are 122-94 against St. Louis at home in that time frame.

(Courtesy BCB’s JohnW53)

Probable pitching matchups

Thursday: Marcus Stroman, RHP (10-6, 2.88 ERA, 1.087 WHIP, 3.39 FIP) vs. Steven Matz, LHP (0-7, 4.86 ERA, 1.513 WHIP, 4.31 FIP)

Friday: Justin Steele, LHP (9-3, 2.96 ERA, 1.110 WHIP, 3.08 FIP) vs. Jack Flaherty, RHP (7-5, 4.29 ERA, 1.530 WHIP, 4.07 FIP)

Saturday: TBD vs. Miles Mikolas, RHP (6-5, 4.14 ERA, 1.266 WHIP, 3.95 FIP)

Sunday: TBD vs. Jordan Montgomery, LHP (6-7, 3.14 ERA, 1.229 WHIP, 3.49 FIP)

NOTE: As of the time of this post, 2 p.m. CT on Thursday, July 20, the Cubs have not listed a starter for either Saturday or Sunday. If they keep to the rotation as they came out of the All-Star break, Drew Smyly would go Saturday and Jameson Taillon would go Sunday. As always, we await developments.

Times & TV channels

Thursday: 7:05 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network, MLB Network (outside the Cubs and Cardinals market territories)

Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, Apple TV+ (how to watch)

Saturday: 1:20 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Sunday: 1:20 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network


The Cubs really need to sweep this series to have any sort of chance to revive divisional hopes.

So, crazy as it sounds, I’m going to call for a four-game sweep.

Up next

The Cubs have Monday off, then head to the South Side of Chicago to take on the White Sox in a two-game series beginning Tuesday evening.


How many games will the Cubs win against the Cardinals?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    (27 votes)
  • 23%
    (50 votes)
  • 39%
    (84 votes)
  • 15%
    (32 votes)
  • 9%
    (20 votes)
213 votes total Vote Now