The St. Louis Cardinals try to avoid a three-game losing streak when they face the host Chicago Cubs in the finale of a three-game series between National League Central rivals on Sunday night. First pitch for the game is scheduled for 7:08 p.m. ET at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
The Cardinals have dropped the first two games of the series, including a 7-2 setback on Saturday, to fall back to .500 at 32-32. St. Louis is tied with the Cincinnati Reds for third place in the NL Central, five games behind the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers, who are tied for first heading into Sunday’s action.
The Cubs have won four in a row and six of their last 10. Chicago is 37-27 and is tied for the third-best record in the National League, one game behind the second-place Los Angeles Dodgers.
The MLB odds for Sunday’s series finale have the Cubs with a moneyline of -129, while the Cardinals are listed at +119. The over/under for the game has been set at 9 1/2 runs.
Giving It Away
The Cardinals’ pitching has been a problem this season in many categories, but the team’s 281 walks — which is easily the most in the majors — has been an extreme negative. Saturday’s loss was an example, as St. Louis took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second, only to have starter John Gant walk five batters, including a bases-loaded pass to Kris Bryant that ended his day.
“We’ve done a lot of things that have been positive, but we haven’t been able to overcome this differential in walks and been giving away too much,” St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said after Saturday’s loss. “Sometimes it’s been earned, and sometimes we pitch around a guy, but there’s been way too many non-competitive ones, too.”
The Cardinals will have right-hander Carlos Martinez on the mound for Sunday’s series finale, as he tries to improve on his 3-6 record and 6.21 ERA. Martinez has 38 strikeouts and 21 walks in 58 innings.
Martinez has struggled in two June starts, allowing a total of 15 earned runs on 13 hits over 4.2 innings. He lasted four innings in his last start, Tuesday against Cleveland, giving up five runs on seven hits, including a home run, while striking out seven and walking one.
The St. Louis offense got a boost with the return of Paul DeJong for this series after he’d been out for a month with a rib fracture. The shortstop had a home run on Saturday, his eighth in 37 games, and gives the Cardinals another power hitter in their lineup.
Outfielder Tyler O’Neill has been the team’s top power bat with 15 home runs, including three over the last five games. Third baseman Nolan Arenado has added 12 home runs — including one on Saturday — while driving in a team-high 44 runs, which is tied for the 11th-most in baseball.
On a Roll
Outfielder Joc Pederson is enjoying the warmer temperatures in Chicago these days, as his bat is heating up. He comes into Sunday with home runs in three straight games, giving him nine as well as 26 RBIs.
Shortstop Javier Baez leads the Cubs with 14 home runs and 40 RBIs, though he’s struggled in June, batting .097 with one home run and four RBIs. He sat out some time this week with a sore thumb but returned for the Cardinals series.
Bryant is batting .298 with 13 home runs and 39 RBIs. He’s 0-for-6 in this series, though he drew two walks on Saturday, including one with the bases loaded.
Right-hander Zach Davies will get the start in the series finale, bringing a 3-3 record and 4.45 ERA to the mound. Davies has 37 strikeouts and 31 walks in 60.2 innings.
Davies is coming off an outstanding performance against San Diego on Tuesday, going six innings and allowing just one hit and no runs while striking out four and walking two. Davies faced the Cardinals on Sunday Night Baseball on May 23, shutting them out on four hits over five innings and taking a no-decision in an extra-inning Chicago win.
Cubs Complete Sweep
The Cardinals are in a major slump and facing the Cubs at Wrigley Field is not usually a good way to get out of it. Martinez has been horrible in his last two starts, and Chicago will look to jump on him early to take an early advantage.
When making your MLB picks, go with Chicago to pick up the win at home.