Coming off their second straight lopsided victory over the Chicag Cubs, the St. Louis Cardinals look to complete the sweep over their archrivals when they meet during the ESPN Sunday night telecast at Busch Stadium. Most offshore sports books monitored by the SportsOptions odds product installed the Cards as $1.40 home favorites.
Chicago (42-64) at St. Louis (56-50), 8:05 p.m. EDT
The St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs are separated by 15 games in the standings.
It just seems like they’re much further apart than that.
Coming off their second straight lopsided victory over the Cubs, the Cardinals look to complete the sweep over their archrivals when they meet Sunday night at Busch Stadium.
After winning Friday’s opener 9-2, St. Louis (57-50) scored 13 unanswered runs – including eight in the fifth inning – in defeating Chicago 13-5 on Saturday.
Albert Pujols and David Freese each homered Saturday, while Ryan Theriot added four hits and three RBIs. Freese, who also hit a three-run homer Friday, is batting .407 with four homers and 10 RBIs in his last nine games.
The Cardinals are in the thick of the NL Central race, thanks partly to a 7-1 record against the Cubs (42-65). Not surprisingly, Pujols is leading this charge, batting .485 with five homers, 11 RBIs and a .564 on-base percentage in the eight games.
Pujols, who is hitting .327 with seven homers in 49 career at-bats against scheduled starter Ryan Dempster (7-8, 4.98 ERA), looks to lead St. Louis to its first sweep over an NL team since winning three straight over the Cubs at home June 3-5. The Cardinals, who went 1-5 against Chicago at Busch Stadium last year, haven’t won six straight home games over the Cubs in a single season since 2000.
Chicago jumped out to an early lead Saturday, plating five first-inning runs, but didn’t get another hit until the ninth inning. The Cubs also committed two more errors, raising their major league-worst total to 93.
Manager Mike Quade was ejected for the fourth time this season after arguing Matt Holliday interfered with Starlin Castro on a potential inning-ending double play in the decisive fifth.
“That was a huge play obviously in the game, too,” Quade said. “It gets us out of there with a 5-3 lead.”
The Cubs have lost the first five contests on a 10-game road trip, and are a major league-worst 6-23 on the road since May 22.
It could be difficult for Chicago to avoid falling 24 under .500 for the first time since finishing the 2006 season 66-96 in the finale against scheduled starter Jake Westbrook (9-4, 4.86).
Westbrook has yielded two runs or fewer in his three starts since the All-Star break after surrendering four runs or more in four of his previous five. In Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Houston, the right-hander gave up a run and seven hits in six innings.
The veteran has historically been a bit stronger in the second half of seasons. Since 2005, he is 27-30 with a 4.75 ERA in 87 starts before the Midsummer Classic, and is 29-21 with a 3.79 ERA in 63 outings after.
Westbrook had one of his worst starts of the year against the Cubs on May 11, permitting five runs and six hits in a season-low 2 1-3 innings of an 11-4 loss.
Dempster has lost his two starts since the break after going 6-2 with a 3.15 ERA in his previous 12.
One of the losses in that stretch came to the Cardinals on June 3, when the right-hander gave up six runs and eight hits in five innings of a 6-1 defeat in St. Louis.
Dempster got off to a rocky start against Milwaukee on Tuesday, yielding three runs and four hits in the first inning before settling down and allowing three more hits over the next five frames. The Cubs couldn’t recover, however, and lost 3-2.