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 1⁄2 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 2⁄3 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 2⁄3 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 2⁄3 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.