Fowler heating up as Cardinals begin important series against Cubs

During their two years together with the Chicago Cubs, manager Joe Maddon frequently said this to leadoff man Dexter Fowler.

“You go, we go,” Maddon said.

So far in 2018, the only place Fowler’s gone is to the dugout. His first 100 at-bats for the St. Louis Cardinals have resulted in a paltry .170 average, four homers, 14 RBIs and 25 strikeouts. That’s 95 points below his career average.

But Fowler hasn’t lost faith in himself, and his last at-bat of Wednesday’s 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox has probably reinforced his confidence for the start of a three-game series with the Cubs on Friday night in Busch Stadium.

That’s because Fowler, who going into that plate appearance was 0-for-14 and 1-for-20, launched a two-run homer to center field that stood as the margin of victory.

“My confidence has always been there,” Fowler said to “But any time you get hits, you’re happy.”

A test of Fowler’s confidence and mood could be offered by Cubs starter Jose Quintana (3-1, 5.74 ERA). That’s because Quintana is a left-hander, and they have baffled Fowler in the early going. Fowler is just 1-for-22 as a right-handed hitter, fanning 10 times, although he’s 5-for-13 with a homer when facing Quintana.

Quintana has had three rough outings in his first five starts, but Saturday wasn’t one of them. He rolled through seven shutout innings in a 3-0 win over Milwaukee, yielding just two hits and a walk while fanning seven.

In four career outings against St. Louis, Quintana is 3-0 with a 3.13 earned-run average, winning two starts last year when he was acquired from the White Sox at the All-Star break.

Chicago (16-12) has lost consecutive games after a five-game winning streak, dropping an 11-2 decision to Colorado Wednesday. The Cubs have managed just 16 runs over their last eight games but permitted only four runs during their winning streak.

“The at-bats have been good,” Maddon said to “We’ve seen some good pitching. I mean, that’s part of it also … it’s not like we’re just out there flailing at anything. The runs are going to come, but we’ve been in a stretch where we’ve faced some pretty good guys.”

So far, Miles Mikolas could qualify in that department. The Cardinals’ starter is 3-0 with a 3.27 ERA in his first five starts with the club after spending the last three years in Japan. Mikolas would be 4-0, except the bullpen hacked up a 5-2 lead after he left his last start on April 27 in Pittsburgh.

Mikolas, who will make his first career start against Chicago, has lasted seven innings in three consecutive outings. In 33 innings, Mikolas has walked just two and fanned 27.

“He was fantastic,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said of Mikolas’ performance in Pittsburgh. “It felt like he was in control the entire time. Had the strikeout stuff to go along with pounding the strike zone. Good life on the fastball. Another very, very good outing for him.”