Cubs-Cardinals Preview

St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is appreciative of the apparent national interest in his team.

He just wishes it would stop being shown in the form of Sunday night telecasts, particularly when an off day doesn’t follow.

Nevertheless, the Cardinals will try to overcome the Chicago Cubs along with grueling travel demands Monday night as they open a four-game set at Busch Stadium.

St. Louis (19-19) is in a stretch of three Sunday night games in four weeks. The only Monday off Matheny’s team gets in that span follows the one day game, and they travel for Monday games after all three under the lights.

"I don’t think it’s taken into consideration at all that it makes it harder for us," Matheny told the team’s official website. "You get in at four o’clock in the morning and … if they tell you that playing the next day that’s not going to affect you, I’d say they’re wrong. I’m not looking for excuses, but it’s happened to us. It happened to us last year and we played through it. You start watching guys getting run down."

Last week, the Cardinals won in Chicago on Sunday and followed it up with a Monday win in Atlanta.

The second of those Sunday night games ended well as the Cardinals avoided a sweep in Pittsburgh with a 6-5 win.

Allen Craig went 5 for 11 in the series to boost his average from .202 to .221. He’s 3 for 22 against the Cubs this season.

The scheduling issues might be offset by the Cardinals having a forgiving opponent waiting for them in St. Louis. The Cubs (12-24) have lost seven of eight overall and six of seven at Busch.

Sunday’s 5-2 loss in Atlanta completed a three-game sweep, in which the Cubs scored four runs and were 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position. For the season, they’re now batting an MLB-worst .195 with runners in scoring position, which has the coaching staff trying to change the team’s approach.

"That’s something that’s ongoing," manager Rick Renteria said. "I think that all the guys are, hopefully, learning from all these experiences, because we’ve got to take something away that will help us down the road."

Nate Schierholtz drove in both runs Sunday, but the Chicago right fielder is just 3 for 27 over eight games. He went 1 for 3 against the Braves with one of the team’s 14 strikeouts, which puts them at 341 for the season. Their 9.5 per game is the highest average in baseball.

That’s all good news for Tyler Lyons as he tries for his first win.

The Cardinals have lost all five games Lyons (0-2, 3.43 ERA) has pitched, but that has more to do with run support than his own work. In three starts, Lyons has been backed with two runs.

In his first turn back in the rotation after a pair of relief appearances, the left-hander allowed a run on four hits in six innings of Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Braves and wasn’t a part of the decision.

He’ll be opposed by Travis Wood (2-4, 4.75), who tied career highs with eight runs and five walks in four innings of Wednesday’s 8-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

The left-hander was much better in a May 2 start against St. Louis, yielding two earned runs on six hits without a walk in seven innings of a 6-5 victory.

Since joining the Cubs, Wood is 2-3 with a 4.41 ERA against the Cardinals.

Yadier Molina is a .400 hitter (12 for 30) with three home runs, four doubles and 11 RBIs against him.