CHICAGO CUBS (87-68)
at ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (81-74)
First pitch: Monday, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Chicago +110, St. Louis -120, Total: 8.5
The Cardinals will be trying to stay alive in the NL wild card race by defeating the Cubs in St. Louis on Monday.
The Cubs have created a nice bit of separation in the NL Central, as they are 5.5 games up on the Brewers and 6.0 games up on the Cardinals right now. Chicago should be able to win the division at this point, but facing St. Louis does make things interesting. If the Cardinals can find a way to sweep then they would not only be alive in the wild card race, but they’d also have a small shot to steal the division. That is, however, very unlikely, so St. Louis just needs to focus on winning games in order to have a shot at playing in the Wild Card Game. The starters in this Monday night matchup are set to be LHP Jon Lester (11-8, 4.56 ERA, 169 K) for Chicago and RHP Luke Weaver (7-1, 2.05 ERA, 65 K) for St. Louis. Lester has long been an excellent pitcher in this league, but he has been awful this season. The Cubs are hoping that he can get back on track here, as they’ll want him to have some momentum once the postseason begins. Weaver, meanwhile, has been excellent on the year, so the Cardinals will be confident with him out there.
The Cubs’ magic number is just two right now, so they definitely will want to clinch the division in St. Louis this week. Jon Lester is the guy tasked with earning them a victory on Monday, and the lefty has been solid against St. Louis this season. In four meetings with the Cardinals, Lester is 1-1 with a 3.28 ERA and 30 strikeouts. And his most recent matchup with them just might have been his best, as he allowed just two earned runs and struck out 10 batters in eight innings of work. Chicago won that game 3-2 and will certainly be hoping that a similar Lester performance is on the horizon. Offensively, the Cubs are likely going to have some trouble with Weaver here. Everybody that has faced him has, but one guy to keep an eye out for is SS Addison Russell. The Cubs obviously have guys that are more dangerous at the plate than Russell, but the 23-year-old has homered off of Weaver in the past. Perhaps he saw something he liked against the righty, and Chicago would certainly welcome any production he can give them.
The Cardinals will be hoping to stay alive in the playoff hunt on Monday, and Luke Weaver is exactly the guy they’ll want on the mound here. Weaver has been insane lately, as the righty has allowed two or fewer earned runs in eight straight appearances for St. Louis. He did pitch just two innings in one of those games, but the point is that he is consistently giving the Cardinals a chance to win games. It would not be surprising at all if he were to shut down Chicago here, as his stuff has truly been top notch over the past few months. Offensively, C Yadier Molina should be able to come through at the plate for Weaver. Molina is 12-for-35 with three doubles, a homer, and five RBI against Lester in his career. He has always come up big for this team when counted on and that should be no different on Monday.