Cardinals-Cubs Preview

The St. Louis Cardinals have the best rotation in baseball, and
Lance Lynn is leading the charge with a personal winning streak
that’s reached double digits.

Lynn goes for an 11th straight regular-season victory Tuesday
night, when he tries to remain unbeaten against the Chicago Cubs in
the opener of a two-game set at Wrigley Field.

St. Louis (20-11) has the NL’s best record thanks largely to a
starting staff that tops the majors with a 2.21 ERA and 19 wins,
compared to six losses.

The latest gem was tossed by Jaime Garcia, who yielded one run
in eight innings of Sunday’s 10-1 win at Milwaukee.

Of the five starters the Cardinals have used, four have at least
four victories to rank among the NL leaders.

Lynn (5-0, 2.75 ERA) leads them all, tying Washington’s Jordan
Zimmermann for the most in the league.

“It’s early, but it’s fun so far,” said Lynn, who has won all 10
decisions over his last 11 regular-season games – 10 starts – since
a loss in relief to the Brewers on Sept. 7.

Over that stretch, the right-hander has a 2.48 ERA with 10.4
strikeouts per nine innings while limiting opponents to a .205
average and four homers. It’s the longest win streak by a St. Louis
pitcher since Chris Carpenter’s run of 11 from July 5-Sept. 7,

Lynn has won all four of his starts against Chicago – all last
year – behind a 2.96 ERA. However, he needed a lot of help in the
last one, a 9-6 victory at Wrigley on July 27 as he gave up six
runs in five innings.

Despite his overall success against the Cubs, their 2-3-4
hitters – Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano – have
hit a combined .387 (12 for 31) against him.

Lynn enters this visit in a dominant stretch, allowing a
combined two runs and eight hits over his last three starts and
going seven innings in each.

“To be able to pitch like this and win games, it feels good,”
Lynn said. “I just go out there, concentrate and keep trying to
improve every day.”

Allen Craig is on a tear, going 9 for 22 with seven RBIs in his
last five games. He matched his career high by driving in four runs
Sunday, connecting for a three-run double and an RBI triple.

He’s helped the Cardinals win six straight, their longest
winning streak since an eight-game run July 11-21, 2010.

Craig has a .381 average over his last 11 meetings with Chicago,
and he’s 4 for 10 with a solo homer off Travis Wood, Tuesday’s
scheduled starter.

Wood (2-2, 2.50) owns the lowest ERA among Cubs’ starters and is
limiting opponents to a .176 average, but he’s received an average
of 2.0 runs of support through six starts.

He sure could use an offensive performance like the one Chicago
(12-20) had Monday, setting a season high for runs in a 9-2 win
over Texas.

“I think we’re a lot better team than what our record shows, and
I think a lot of people would agree with us,” said Rizzo, who went
3 for 4 with a homer and four RBIs.

The first baseman is batting .464 with six RBIs over the past
seven games, and those have all been at Wrigley, raising his season
average there 143 points to .295.

Wood is 0-7 with a 4.58 ERA in his last 12 starts at Wrigley
dating to a win over Houston on July 1. He lost again there
Thursday in a 4-2 defeat to San Diego, tossing seven scoreless
innings before being charged with three runs and leaving with two
outs in the eighth.

The left-hander went 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in three starts versus
St. Louis last year, and both defeats came opposite Lynn.