Cubs-Cardinals Preview

The Chicago Cubs will embark on a 10-game road trip facing stiff
competition after a dismal homestand against three of the NL’s
worst teams.

Beginning the trek with a victory would mark a feat they haven’t
accomplished in quite some time.

Chicago seeks its first six-game winning streak at either Busch
Stadium in 33 years Friday night when it opens a three-game set
against the arch-rival St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cubs (23-31) finished 3-6 against the New York Mets,
Pittsburgh and Houston at Wrigley Field, capped by a three-game
sweep at the hands of the NL-worst Astros culminating with
Wednesday’s 3-1 loss.

Chicago dropped two of three to the Cardinals at home May 10-12,
but took last season’s final five meetings at Busch. The Cubs
haven’t won six straight in St. Louis since they won seven in a row
at the old Busch Stadium during the 1978 season.

A rash of injuries may make it tough for the Cubs to keep their
current streak alive.

Aramis Ramirez required stitches after being hit in the mouth
Wednesday, though it’s unclear if he’ll miss any time. However,
Alfonso Soriano (quad) and Reed Johnson (back) recently joined
Marlon Byrd (multiple facial fractures) on the disabled list,
further depleting an offense that has scored three or fewer runs in
five of its last six games.

That doesn’t bode well for Chicago, especially facing
first-place St. Louis, Cincinnati and NL East-leading Philadelphia
over the next week and a half.

“Obviously things haven’t gone well for us. That’s no secret,”
said first baseman Carlos Pena, who is 2 for 16 over his last five
games. “I believe we’re coming together as a team, as ugly as it
looks right now.”

Probable starter Ryan Dempster (4-4, 6.00 ERA) has been a recent
bright spot, going 3-0 with a 3.75 ERA over his last four outings.
The veteran right-hander pitched the Cubs to their most recent
victory Sunday, allowing two runs over six innings of a 3-2 win
over Pittsburgh.

Dempster is 1-1 with a 2.86 ERA in five starts at the new Busch
Stadium.

Though the Cubs have had recent success in St. Louis, so has
Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia (5-1, 3.28).

The left-hander is 3-0 with a 0.29 ERA and two shutouts in four
home starts this season, and 5-1 with a 0.85 ERA at Busch since
Aug. 22. However, Garcia’s only home loss in that span came against
the Cubs on Sept. 13, when he allowed four runs – two earned – in
six innings.

He got credit for a 9-1 win in Chicago on May 12, when he gave
up one run through seven innings, but Garcia is now coming off the
worst outing of his career. He allowed 12 runs in 3 1-3 innings of
Saturday’s 15-4 loss at Colorado.

The Cardinals (33-25) have lost five of eight, including a 12-7
defeat to San Francisco on Thursday. Colby Rasmus hit a grand slam
and a two-run triple for a career-high six RBIs, but it wasn’t
enough to prevent St. Louis from dropping three of four to the
Giants.

“He’s got a ton of talent,” manager Tony La Russa said of
Rasmus. “The more at-bats, the more consistent he’ll be.”

Rasmus went 6 for 15 against the Cubs last month, but he’s 1 for
8 lifetime off Dempster.