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Series Preview 7/27-29: Cubs vs. Cardinals

The Cardinals kick off a seven-game homestand with three against the Cubs

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

After a day off on Thursday, the Cardinals are back at Busch Stadium to open a three-game series with the Cubs on Friday night. This is a critical three-game set for St. Louis; a win or sweep of the series helps them move forward in the divisional race, while a loss will further knock them out of play.

Entering play on Friday, the 60-42 Cubs lead the National League Central division, followed by the Brewers, Pirates, then Cardinals.

In the series opener on Friday, Luke Weaver will take on Mike Montgomery at 7:15 PM Central time. Weaver was sent to the Minors to get some extra rest, an action that will hopefully pay off for the right-hander. In 20 starts for St. Louis this season, Weaver has a 4.11 FIP with a 98:41 strikeout-to-walk ratio. This will be Weaver’s fourth start of the year facing Chicago, a team he has a 10.89 ERA against in 19 career innings.

The left-handed Montgomery held the Cardinals one run in his six-inning outing in the second game of the doubleheader on 7/21. Montgomery might benefit from working at Busch Stadium. This season, Montgomery has a 2.68 ERA with a .200 BAA in 43 23 innings of work on the road in 2018.

Saturday’s contest will begin at 3:05 PM and feature Miles Mikolas and Jose Quintana. Mikolas has a 3.69 ERA in his last seven starts and a 2.82 mark in 20 starts for the year. No current Cubs player has hit a home run off Mikolas, and outfielder Jason Heyward has drawn two of the three walks the right-handed hurler has allowed to this Chicago offense.

Quintana, another Cubs lefty, has won his last three starts - his most recent: a seven-inning performance against the Cardinals on 7/22. Quintana has logged seven innings in three starts this year, with his last outing the first since mid-May. Nine of Quintana’s 19 starts have been quality, and he will look to cap off a solid month of July with another on Saturday.

In Sunday’s series finale, John Gant will take on Kyle Hendricks at 7:05 PM. Gant was initially in line to start during the team’s last series in Cincinnati but was skipped over, in favor of Daniel Poncedeleon. (That worked out pretty well, if you haven’t heard..) Gant enters Sunday with a 3.44 ERA in 14 games (seven apiece as a reliever and starter) with a 1.22 WHIP in 55 innings. Anthony Rizzo is 4-for-5 with a double facing Gant.

Hendricks has surpassed the five-inning mark only one in July and just three times dating back to the start of June. Sunday will be Hendricks’ team-leading 22nd start of the season, and he enters the series trailing Lester for the lead in innings - 120 23 frames for Lester, and 120 for Hendricks. In their careers against Hendricks, Yadier Molina is batting .318 (7-for-22) and Marcell Ozuna has six runs batted in.