For the second time this season, the Cards will welcome the Chicago Cubs to St. Louis. Last time, the Cubs took 2 of 3 at Busch Stadium. This time is a bit different, as Chicago has dropped 5 of their last 7 games. The Martinez vs. Arrieta pitching matchup will draw national attention.
The Cardinals are set to square off with the NL Central juggernaut Chicago Cubs this week, and if they have any hopes to secure a 4th consecutive division championship, they’re going to have to get through Chicago. Even though it’s way too early to worry about divisional leads, it’s worth noting that at this point, the Cubs currently have a 6 game lead, and they are 7 games up on the Cards.
St. Louis has been consistently hovering around the .500 mark on the season due mostly in part to the shaky performance of their starting pitching. The offense has been fairly productive and has kept the team in ballgames for most of the season. In order to stay competitive in the series, the bats are going to need to continue to produce against the Cubs trio of John Lackey, Jason Hammel, and Jake Arrieta.
On the other side, the Cardinals will send Adam Wainwright, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez to the hill to oppose the 29-13 Cubs. Wainwright is coming off of his best start of the season, and will look to build on it against a potent Chicago lineup that has recently gone cold. Jason Heyward has been out since he sustained a rib injury making a catch on Saturday, and Joe Maddon says it’s still unclear if he’ll be available in the next couple of games. The Cubs have scored more than 3 runs in just 1 of their last 7 games, but are still averaging 5.66 runs per game (including 6.10 runs per game on the road).
The #stlcards could be 4 games out in the NLC w/a 3-game sweep of Chicago. Not likely. But demonstrates how quickly things can tighten up.
— Greg Scott (@GregScott1991) May 23, 2016
Michael Wacha is hoping to rebound from back-to-back poor starts allowing 6 runs in 4 innings against the Dodgers and Rockies. In order to be successful, Wacha should attack the strike zone against the right-handed power bats of the Cubs, but tread lightly against Anthony Rizzo who owns a .455 lifetime average with 2 home runs against the righty.
In the most anticipated pitching matchup of the series, Carlos Martinez will take to the rubber against NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta. Martinez hasn’t been quite the same since having a start pushed back due to flu-like symptoms, and it’s concerning that he hasn’t struck out more than 3 batters in an outing since May 1st.
Arrieta, on the other hand, continues to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. This is his first start against the Cards since he let up 4 runs in an 8-6 NLDS win last October, but he’s generally been successful dealing with the Cardinals lineup. Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday are just a combined 4 for 30 against him, and he had a 2-1 record with a 2.42 ERA in starts against St. Louis in 2015.
There’s no doubt that this is a big series for the Redbirds. The truth is that anything less than a series win would put them in a deep hole of at least 8 games behind. With their big horses on the mound at home with a struggling Chicago offense, it would be good to see the Cards take 2 of 3 or even bring out the brooms for a sweep to let Chicago know that this is going to be a dogfight of a division throughout the summer.
Photo Captured by Jeff Curry – USA TODAY Sports