The St. Louis Cardinals have emerged from their recent struggles with their second-longest win streak of the season. They'll look to match their longest by taking advantage of a seemingly favorable pitching matchup.
The Cardinals (55-34) had dropped eight of 11 as their three-game lead over Pittsburgh in the NL Central turned into a two-game deficit. Matchups with two of the worst teams in baseball helped them change their fortunes, and they held on for a fifth consecutive victory in Wednesday's series finale against Houston.
Matt Carpenter put his team ahead for good with a two-run homer in a 5-4 win as St. Louis stayed 1 1/2 games in front of the Pirates. Carpenter has batted .360 with 14 extra-base hits - four homers - and 17 RBIs in his last 18 games.
"This is a huge five-game stretch for us to win, come out here and win all these games at home, to get on a roll right before the All-Star break," Carpenter said. "Hopefully we can continue it in Chicago."
St. Louis can match a season-best six-game win streak from April 30-May 5 as Westbrook (5-3, 2.78 ERA) takes the ball. The right-hander has gone 4-0 with a 2.35 ERA in his last six starts against the Cubs, giving up one unearned run and two hits over seven innings of the most recent one, a 4-1 home victory June 19.
Westbrook bounced back from one of his worst outings of the season with a 4-1 win over Miami on Friday, allowing one run over seven innings. He was tagged for a season-high six runs and 10 hits in four innings of a 7-5 loss to Oakland on June 30.
"I made a few adjustments, looked at a few things and worked on a few things in my bullpen (session). I was able to carry that into today," Westbrook told the team's website.
Westbrook will be opposed by former teammate Jackson, who appeared in 13 games and started 12 for the Cardinals in 2011. The right-hander hasn't experienced much success in his first season with the Cubs, though he's won his last two starts.
Jackson (5-10, 5.50 ERA) gave up one run over 5 2-3 innings of a 4-1 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.
"As we all know, this is a crazy game. It's tough to be consistent. You just have to keep working hard and don't count your eggs before they hatch," he told the team's official website. "You just have to continue to have confidence in yourself and believe that you can do it. Then you can go out there and have fun."
Jackson hasn't had too much fun in his last two starts against the Cardinals, going 0-2 with a 16.20 ERA after posting a 2.75 ERA in his first five matchups with them. He opposed Westbrook on June 19 and gave up four runs in 5 1-3 innings, his lone game against St. Louis this season.
Jackson will try to help the Cubs rebound from their most lopsided defeat of the season. Chicago (40-49) had won four in a row before a 13-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Wednesday.
The Cubs have dropped six of eight and 11 of 16 to the Cardinals.