The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals will begin a critical four-game series when they clash at Wrigley Field in Chicago on Thursday night.
Still in the lead
The Cardinals have lost five of their last eight contests but maintained their lead in the National League Central over the Cubs and Brewers at two games with 11 outings apiece to play. First baseman Paul Goldschmidt doubled in the first inning on Tuesday to snap an 0-for-9 slide and catcher Yadier Molina had a pair of hits after going 2-for-24 over the previous seven games. The Cardinals stole two bases to push their NL-leading total to 110. Second baseman Kolten Wong is 2-for-13 over the past four games after going 7-for-12 in the previous three.
— St. Louis Cardinals (@Cardinals) September 18, 2019
Right-hander Jack Flaherty (10-8, 3.05 ERA) is taking the mound for St. Louis on Thursday. Flaherty is much better than his overall numbers suggest, even though they are quite good. The 23-year-old posted a 0.71 ERA in August and he has a 1.23 ERA to show for three September efforts. He has mowed down 10 batters in each of his two most recent outings.
Next man up
The Cubs are preaching the “next man up” philosophy with injuries to key players such as Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Addison Russell. Chicago had its five-game winning streak snapped with Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to Cincinnati and it is tied with Milwaukee for the final NL wild-card spot–1.5 games behind Washington–and two back of first-place St. Louis in the NL Central. Manager Joe Maddon has used catchers Victor Caratini and Willson Contreras at first base the last two games in Rizzo’s absence, and rookie Nico Hoerner has filled in admirably at shortstop in place of Baez and Russell. Rizzo’s sprained right ankle will be evaluated in the coming days, while Russell could return from concussion protocol as early as this weekend.
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Right-hander Kyle Hendricks (6-4, 3.16 ERA) will oppose Flaherty on Thursday. The right-hander pitched a four-hitter with three strikeouts in a 4-0 victory over St. Louis on May 3, starting a run in which he is 5-0 with a 2.09 ERA in his last seven starts. He has struck out 26 in 21.0 innings over his last three outings (2-0), including 10 in a 6-3 victory over Colorado last Tuesday. The Cardinals’ Matt Carpenter is just 7-for-41 with 14 strikeouts and two home runs against Hendricks, who is 6-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 15 starts against St. Louis.
The St. Louis Cardinals are:
- 2-5 in Flaherty’s last seven starts against teams with winning records
- 1-5 in Flaherty’s last six road starts against teams with winning records
- 5-21 in their last 26 games at Chicago
The Chicago Cubs are:
- 5-1 in their last six overall
- 47-22 in their last 69 home games
- 7-0 in their last seven series openers