CHICAGO CUBS (88-69)
at ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (82-75)
First pitch: Wednesday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: N/A, Total: N/A
The Cubs will be trying to clinch the NL Central once again when they take on the Cardinals on Wednesday.
Chicago had a chance to defeat St. Louis and clinch the NL West on Tuesday, but the Cardinals came ready to play in that one. St. Louis jumped out to an early lead and Chicago was never able to tie it up, despite clawing back and making it an 8-7 game. St. Louis is still playing for a spot in the NL Wild Card Game, but the team is going to need to really turn it on now. There are only five games remaining and the Cardinals will probably have to win all of them in order to grab the second spot in the game. One thing that should have St. Louis feeling good here is that the team seemingly has the edge on the mound. Chicago will be trotting out RHP John Lackey (11-11, 4.67 ERA, 145 K) in this one and he’ll be going up against St. Louis’ RHP Michael Wacha (12-8, 4.00 ERA, 150 K). The Cubs have dominated this series on the year, though. Chicago is 12-5 against St. Louis this year, but the Cardinals are a competitive 4-4 at home.
The Cubs are definitely disappointed about the way they started the game on Wednesday, but they can’t dwell on it now. They’ll have a few more chances to clinch the division, but they should be able to do it and one can imagine that they’ll definitely be eager to do it on Wednesday. Lackey is starting this one for Chicago, and the righty has been pretty lousy recently. He has pitched just 8.2 innings over the past two games, and the Cubs will be hoping that he can work deeper into this one. In Lackey’s only start against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium this season, the righty pitched six innings of three-run ball and struck out seven batters. If he can turn in a performance like that on Wednesday then Chicago will have a shot. On offense, the Cubs will be expecting big games from both 1B Anthony Rizzo and 3B Kris Bryant. Both guys have really hit Wacha hard in their careers, as they are a combined 25-for-61 with three doubles, four homers and 12 RBI against him.
The Cardinals are hanging on for dear life in the NL wild card race, but they know that they have very little room for error. St. Louis is pretty much playing an elimination game every time the team steps on the field for the rest of the season. With that in mind, expect the Cardinals to play with some serious intensity on Wednesday. Wacha is the guy that will be taking the ball for them in this one and the righty has been rock solid as of late. He has allowed three or fewer earned runs in five straight starts, and the Cardinals can’t ask for much more from him here. Offensively, two guys that St. Louis will be hoping can step up here are OF Dexter Fowler and SS Aledmys Diaz. The two of them are a combined 10-for-28 with three doubles, a homer and three RBI against Lackey in their careers. These are not players that can always be counted on to come through for the Cardinals, so it would be big for them to get production from them here.