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Cards vs. Cubs: Series Preview

Cards vs. Cubs Nick Kave/ via

MLB: Cardinals

Cards vs. Cubs: The Rivalry

The Cards vs. Cubs rivalry has become as heated as ever, over the last few years.  This is mostly because the Cubs are finally good again.  Actually, they are really good, as much as it pains me to say.  The Cardinals won the division in 2015, but were bounced from the NLDS, by the Cubs, in four games.  After that stinging loss for the Cardinals, came two more.  The Cubs signed both Jason Heyward, and John Lackey, that off season.

At the end of the next season, the Cardinals were looking up at the Cubs in the Central, and had to watch from the sidelines, as the Cubs went on to win the World Series.  However, this off-season, the Cards would be the ones stealing a free agent.  They signed Dexter Fowler to a five-year deal, leaving the Cubs without their former lead-off man.

With the addition of Dexter Fowler, the Cardinals have regained first place, in the NL Central, for now.  The ‘almighty’ Cubs have struggled this season, thanks to their mediocre starting pitching.  Going into this weekend, the Cardinals stand alone in the top spot, of the NL Central, 2.5 games ahead of the fourth place Cubs.  All of this, should make for a fun weekend of baseball, even if it is only May.

Game 1: Leake vs. Butler

Tonight’s matchup would seem to favor the Redbirds on paper.  Mike Leake, who has been Cy Young good, this season, posting a 4-1 record, with a 1.79 ERA, will take the mound against Eddie Butler.  Butler has not seen much success in his MLB career, with a record of 6-16, and a 6.50 ERA.  He will be making his first start of the 2017 season.

Though one Cubs’ hitter, Anthony Rizzo, has owned Mike Leake, with a .375 average, with four doubles, and two home runs, he has done an exceptional job of getting weak contact, and keeping the ball in the park, this season.  He has only allowed solid contact on 3.3 percent of balls put in play, and has induced a 42.3 percent ground ball rate.

The Cardinals roughed up Butler, in his only appearance against them.  He went 1 1/3 innings, giving up six hits, and two earned runs.  This is clearly a miniscule sample, but it could spell bad news for the Cubs tonight.

Game 2: TBD vs. Lester

Saturday’s game may feature an opening day rematch of aces.  This is, however, dependent on who the Cardinals decide to start, after announcing they will skip Wacha, for extra rest.  It is likely they will go with Carlos Martinez, who would be on normal rest.  Meanwhile, the Cubs will go with veteran Jon Lester.

Jon Lester has pitched very well against the Cardinals in his career.  He has a 3-3 record, in 10 games, with an impressive 1.96 ERA, when facing the St. Louis club. Lester has hit somewhat of a speed bump this season, though, recording just one win in seven starts, and posting a 3.27 ERA.  These are still very respectable numbers, but nothing compared to his 19 win effort in 2016, when he had a 2.44 ERA.

Should the Cardinals go with Martinez, the Cubs will have their hands full.  Martinez has posted a 2.79 ERA, in his last three starts, and after struggling, over a few starts earlier this season, has looked like the ace that he is.

Over Martinez’s young career, he has not pitched particularly well against Chicago.  He has a career ERA of 4.17 against the North Siders, in 20 games.  Only 10 of those games were starts, though, and on opening day this year, Carlos gave the Cubs all they could handle.  He went 7 1/3 innings, striking out 10, without allowing a run, in what would be a 4-3 Cardinals victory.

Game 3: TBD vs. Arrieta

If Martinez does start Saturday, that would line Wainwright up to start on Sunday.  Waino has had another rough year, so far, with just a few bright spots.  The 12 year vet has posted a nightmare 6.37 ERA, this season, and has yet to have a quality start.  He has a career ERA of 4.24, when facing the Cubs, but will try to improve that, should he get the call Sunday.

On the opposing side, will be 2015 Cy Young Award winner, Jake Arrieta, who has been nothing of the sort, this season.  Since dominating the Cardinals, in the second game of the year, Arrieta has scuffled to a 4-2 record, with a 5.35 ERA.  He is coming off an abysmal start against the Rockies, where he lasted only 3 2/3 innings, giving up nine runs, five earned, on nine hits.  Arrieta will look to bounce back  Sunday, but this Cardinals offense has been firing on all cylinders of late.

Rookie Magneuris Sierra has provided a spark, since he came up, hitting .353, and scoring seven runs, in four games. The Redbirds are coming off a perfect road trip, piling up six wins in a row.  They will look to keep things rolling, this weekend, and try to create more space between them, and the fourth place Cubs.