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Series Preview 6/15-17: Cubs vs. Cardinals

Will the Cardinals do what they did the last time the Cubs were at Busch Stadium?

MLB: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

In a heat-riddled Gateway City this weekend, the Cubs and Cardinals will meet for a three-game series at Busch Stadium. The Cubs were shutout twice in Milwaukee during the week, while the Cardinals dropped two of three to the Padres.

Chicago enters the series with a 38-27 record, trailing the Brewers by 1 12 games in the National League Central division. St. Louis is 36-30, four back of Milwaukee. The Brewers will host the Phillies this weekend at Miller Park.

The series opener on Friday will feature a matchup of Michael Wacha and Jon Lester at 7:15 PM Central time. Wacha and Lester have been two of the top pitchers in the league thus far. In 13 starts, Wacha is 8-1 with a 3.41 FIP. Batters are hitting .201 off Wacha, the fifth-lowest BAA in the National League; Max Scherzer leads the way with an opponent‘s batting mark of .171, and Lester is sixth with a .206 average. For Wacha, it’s the lowest his BAA has been since he had a .216 in 2013 - his rookie season.

Trailing Jacob deGrom (1.55), Scherzer (2.00), and Mike Foltynewicz (2.16), Lester’s 2.22 ERA is the fourth-lowest in the NL. Lester has a 1.09 WHIP and an 84.8 left on-base percentage; that means that not only are not many getting on base, but the few that do are very often stranded - hence the low ERA. The numbers all make sense now..

For Saturday’s game, Carlos Martinez will share the mound with Kyle Hendricks at 7:15 PM. Martinez will make his third start since coming off the disabled list and look to build off his first two. Between the pair of starts, Martinez logged 7 23 innings with seven earned runs and 12 walks. Martinez will look to use past success against the Cubs in his favor; Javier Baez is just 4-for-27 and Kris Bryant 5-for-27 in their careers facing Martinez.

Hendricks has not logged more than five innings since 5/25 and has lost all three starts since that outing. Home runs have been Hendricks’ kryptonite this season. In his 77 23 innings of work, Hendricks has surrendered 13 long balls, equating to a 1.51 HR/9 rate. That is the highest rate of his career. He set a season high with a 1.10 last year; before that, it was 0.85 in 2015. Matt Carpenter is 7-for-26 with two homers and four walks facing Hendricks, while Tommy Pham has one hit in seven plate appearances.

Jack Flaherty and Jose Quintana will start on Sunday at 7:05 PM. Three of Flaherty’s eight starts this season have been quality, as he has maintained a 2.96 ERA in 45 23 frames. Flaherty has a 48:11 strikeout-to-walk ratio with just 11 extra-base hits (five doubles, six home runs) allowed.

In the first half of his first full season with the Cubs, Quintana has a 4.09 ERA in 13 starts. Walks have been a problem for Quintana, who has a career-high 4.22 BB/9 rate. His highest while a member of the White Sox staff was 2.77 back in 2012. Cardinals backstop Yadier Molina is 4-for-14 with two doubles in his career facing Quintana, while Carpenter is just 1-for-9 with three punchouts facing the lefty.