CARDINALS (31-29) AT CUBS (34-27)
2:20 p.m. ET; NBCSCH, MLBN, FS-M, MLB.TV
A matchup between the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs is always special to both fan bases. When a fight for a playoff position is involved — even in June — the rivalry carries more weight.
That will be the mood at Wrigley Field when St. Louis opens a three-game weekend series against Chicago on Friday night. The Cubs have climbed to the top of the NL Central, tied with Milwaukee, and the Cardinals are just 2 1/2 games back.
Adding to the drama is the fact that the clubs met a week ago in St. Louis, with the Cardinals sweeping three games. The last of those came Sunday when Cole Hamels was the hard-luck loser for Chicago.
The left-hander gets another chance Friday night when he faces St. Louis right-hander Miles Mikolas. Hamels (4-2, 3.62 ERA) allowed one unearned run and just two hits over seven innings but was tagged with the loss.
Hamels is very familiar with the Cardinals, first from his years with Philadelphia and now with the Cubs. In 15 career games, all starts, he is 4-6 with a 2.48 ERA. He’ll also try to keep going a strong start to Chicago’s seven-game homestand.
The Cubs have won three of the first four but are coming off a 3-1 loss to Colorado in which Rockies right-hander Peter Lambert, called up before the game, fanned nine in his major league debut.
Even with the loss the Cubs are feeling good about the homestand so far, and they reinforced their roster with the debut of outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and the signing of reliever Craig Kimbrel.
Kimbrel, who won a World Series with Boston last year, remained a free agent until the Cubs signed him this week. He will need some time before joining the bullpen but manager Joe Maddon is happy for the help.
“Anyone would be excited to get a guy of his ilk in their bullpen, no question about it,” he said this week.
The Cardinals won’t have to face Kimbrel this weekend, but they will have Mikolas on the mound. The righty has pitched well in seven career games against Chicago — five of them starts — and is 3-0 with a 1.31 ERA. That includes his outing last week against the Cubs when he allowed one run over seven innings.
Mikolas (4-5, 4.41) has pitched better than his record indicates. Last week’s outing was his seventh quality start of the season but he got a no-decision in the walk-off win. The Cardinals are coming off 3-1 win over Cincinnati on Thursday, a game that Mikolas would have started if not for a Wednesday rainout.
It was the third rainout of the season for St. Louis.
“For me, it’s not that big a deal,” manager Mike Shildt told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You can’t control it. … When I think about things like rain, I’m not thinking about what I can actually do or think about lineups that aren’t there yet. Not to the point that I can think about it.”
–Field Level Media