Cubs-Cardinals Series Preview

Cubs and Cardinals renew their heated rivalry in weekend series at Busch Stadium for first meeting since Opening week

After a much-needed day off, the Cubs are back in action tonight when they take on the hated rival St. Louis Cardinals for the last 3 games of the 6 game road trip. Head-to-head games within your division are always important, but this is a big series for the Cubs (17–17), who are 2.5 GB of the Cardinals (19–14) in the Central. The Cardinals have been on a role in their last 20 games and the Cubs have struggled to find consistency early on in the year and this will be a great test for both teams at this point in the young season.

Game 1: Eddie Butler Vs. Mike Leake, 7:15 PM CDT, TV: CSN Chicago and MLB Network. Radio: 670 The Score

Eddie Butler will make his Chicago Cubs debut on Friday with Brett Anderson going on the DL earlier in the Week. Butler was 1–0 with a 1.17 ERA in 5 starts at Triple-A Iowa. Opponents are batting just .228 against him in Triple-A however, he has walked 8 batters in just 30 and 2/3 IP. Butler, who was acquired in the offseason for James Farris, has seen time in the MLB before with the Colorado Rockies but was susceptible to the long ball and opponents were hitting over .320 against him with a WHIP of 1.77. Control will be critical going up against a Cardinals offense that has outscored their opponent 43–21 over the course of their 6-game winning streak.

The Cardinals will send veteran right hander Mike Leake to the hill with the hopes of keeping their winning streak alive. Leake is off to a strong start in 2017 going 4–1 with a 1.79 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP in his first 6 starts. Leake is 9–5 with a 3.52 ERA in 23 career starts against the Cubs. Leake has been excellent in his starts at home this season giving up only 3 ER in over 20 IP. So far this season, Leake has been outstanding in innings 1–6 so its important for the Cubs to jump on him early and not allow him to get settled in and into a groove.

Game 2: Jon Lester Vs. Carlos Martinez, 3:05 PM CDT, TV: ABC 7 and FS1, Radio: 670 The Score

Jon Lester will take the mound on Saturday coming off of one of his best starts of the year last week against the Yankees where he pitched 7 great innings surrendering only 1 run on 3 hits to go along with 9 punch outs. The Cubs have only had 4 starters go 7 innings and Lester has 2 of those starts. Jon Lester has had a ton of success against the Cardinals in his career going 3–3 with a 1.96 ERA in 10 starts and is 2–0 with an ERA of 1.00 at Busch Stadium. With the rotation having the struggles that they’ve had, its important for Jon Lester to continue to lead the way and hold down the fort until the rotation gets back on track.

The Cardinals will send their young ace Carlos Martinez to the hill on Saturday. Martinez is coming off a quality start where he allowed 3 runs in 6 innings and continues to try to find the consistency that he is capable of. The young righty faced the Cubs on Opening Day in St. Louis where he dominated, pitching 7 and 1/3 scoreless innings with 10 punch outs. Command has been an issue for Martinez throughout his career, especially this season walking 17 batters in just 42 innings. The Cubs will need to get back to their old ways of working deep counts and taking pitches in order to do some damage against the highly talented ace of the Cardinals.

Game 3: Jake Arrieta Vs. Adam Wainwright, 1:15 PM CDT, TV: WGN and MLB Network, Radio: 670 The Score

Jake Arrieta will take the bump on Sunday hoping to turn his struggles around. He is coming off of a start in Colorado where he gave up 9 runs, but 5 were ER, in just 3 and 2/3 innings while allowing 9 hits and 3 walks. Jake has had trouble with his control, walking 12 batters in just 38 innings this season. Opponents are also hitting .290 against Jake this season, which he will have to turn around in order to shut down a Cardinals offense that is on a role in their last 6 games heading into this series. The Cubs desperately need for Jake Arrieta to get back on track and be the dominant Cy Young caliber pitcher that he’s been over the last few seasons.

The Cardinals will send their former long-time ace, Adam Wainwright in the finale of the 3 game set. Wainwright has not been the same pitcher since injuring his Achilles in 2015. He struggled to find his game last season when he pitched to an ERA just under 5.00 and it has carried over into this season. The former ace was an absolute workhorse for Mike Matheny when he threw over 198 innings 7 times since 2007 but has had difficulty getting deep into games this season, throwing 6+ innings in only 2 of his 7 starts so far. Wainwright doesn’t have the power fastball he once had and hasn’t figured out how to be a pitcher that relies on more breaking balls. He’s walked 13 batters so far this season and has pitched to a 1.86 WHIP so the Cubs will need to be patient, take pitches, and get some timely hitting to beat the former ace.

Stephen Sciaraffa is currently a student at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. Born in Chicago, Stephen spends his free time following the Cubs and taking in games at beautiful Wrigley Field with his dad. You can add him on twitter here.