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Series Preview 9/19-22: Cardinals at Cubs

It all comes down to this.. (maybe)

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

With a three-game lead in the National League Central, the Cardinals are in Chicago this weekend for a four-game series with the Cubs that will bring us closer to knowing who will win the division crown. At 85-67, the Cardinals are three games up on the Cubs and Brewers (both 82-70) entering play on Thursday. In the Wild Card race, Chicago and Milwaukee are tied for the second spot, 1 12 games behind Washington. The Cardinals are 5-7 against the Cubs this year; that’s a trend St. Louis will try to flip, as the two clubs have seven games remaining against each other.

On Thursday afternoon, the Cubs activated closer Craig Kimbrel off the injured list. Kimbrel had been sidelined with an elbow injury but is available out of the ‘pen this evening.

In the first of four games between the Cubs and Cardinals on Thursday evening, Kyle Hendricks and Jack Flaherty will be the pitching matchup. Hendricks has allowed only three earned runs in as many starts this month; this came after the Mets tagged him for six runs in his last August start. This will be Hendricks’ fourth outing against the Cardinals this season. In a combined 25 innings, St. Louis has mustered one run off Hendricks.

Flaherty logged another quality start, holding the Brewers to three runs in six innings to go along with 10 punchouts. Dating back to August 1 — a seven-inning shutout against the Cubs — Flaherty has a 0.90 ERA in 60 innings with 75 strikeouts. This current Cubs roster is slashing .175/.302/.341 off Flaherty, with Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, and Kyle Schwarber a combined 6-for-41 (.146) with 18 whiffs.

Jose Quintana and Michael Wacha will go on Friday afternoon. Quintana was pulled in the third inning of his last start, when he gave up five runs to the Pirates in 2 13 frames. Friday’s start will be Quintana’s 30th start of the season, making this the seventh consecutive season that the lefty has started at least 30 games. Yadier Molina is 8-for-25 with four doubles facing the lefty.

Wacha held Milwaukee scoreless over five innings in his last start and has allowed just four earned runs over his last four starts. In 19 career appearances (17 starts) against the Cubs, Wacha has a 6.68 ERA with 21 homers and 44 walks in 94 innings. Anthony Rizzo, who is currently sidelined with an ankle sprain, is 20-for-45 facing Wacha. Bryant has gotten to Wacha, too, as he is 11-for-35 with two doubles, two triples, and three homers.

On Saturday afternoon, Cole Hamels and Dakota Hudson will be the starters. Hamels missed most of July with an oblique strain and will make his 27th start of the year on Saturday. In his nine starts since returning from the injured list, Hamels has pitched past the fifth inning only twice — and not in any of his three starts this month.

Dating back to August 14, Hudson has a 1.59 ERA in his last seven starts. All seven outings have been at least six innings, and Hudson has logged 45 1⁄3 total innings in the span. Hudson has allowed only two homers over his last 53 innings dating back to the start of August. Contreras and Bryant have three long balls apiece over the past week.

The series will conclude on Sunday afternoon with a matchup of Yu Darvish and Miles Mikolas. Darvish will make his team-leading 31st start of the season on Sunday. The 33-year-old right-hander also leads the Cubs with 217 strikeouts (Jon Lester is the next on the list, with 161 Ks) and a 1.11 WHIP. Darvish struck out 13 Reds in his last start, and that came five days after he fanned 14 Padres in six innings.

Mikolas will make his 32nd start of the season on Sunday; like his counterpart Darvish, Mikolas leads the staff in starts. Mikolas has allowed 10 earned runs in 22 innings this month, with opponents hitting .244 in the four starts.

So, to recap:

Thursday, 9/19, 6:15 | Hendricks vs. Flaherty | FOX, KMOX, CRN

Friday, 9/20, 1:20 | Quintana vs. Wacha | MLB Network, FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Saturday, 9/21, 1:20 | Hamels vs. Hudson | MLB Network, FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Sunday, 9/22, 1:20 | Darvish vs. Mikolas | TBS, FSMW, KMOX, CRN

Notes from around the league:

  • On Thursday, it was announced that Yankees right-hander Domingo German was placed on administrative leave under the Joint MLB-MLBPA Domestic Violence Policy. MLB’s Department of Investigations is looking into the case, and the league will have no comment until the investigation is complete.
  • Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole reached the 300-strikeout mark on Wednesday and sits at 302 punchouts in 200 1⁄3 innings this season. Cole is the 18th pitcher in history to reach the mark and fourth active pitcher - joining Max Scherzer (‘18), Clayton Kershaw (‘15), and Chris Sale (‘17).