Cards go for back-to-back wins against division-leading Cubs
CHICAGO -- St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said the real Cardinals have yet to appear, but they might be getting close after a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Monday night.
The Cardinals are in the midst of a three-game series at Wrigley Field with a record barely above .500 and trailing by 11 1/2 games in a division they have dominated in past years.
But Matheny shrugs off questions about making up the big gap. After all, St. Louis is a perennial powerhouse that has averaged nearly 92 regular season victories a season since 2008.
"It's one game, that's how we deal with it, don't look any further past that," Matheny said on Monday. "We're competing against ourselves because we haven't really shown for a long period of time the kind of team that we can be.
"Once we take care of that, the results will be there."
The Cardinals and Cubs still have 12 head-to-head games through the balance of this season.
The next comes Tuesday as the Cardinals send right-hander Adam Wainwright (5-4, 3.93 ERA) against Cubs righty Jason Hammel (7-2, 2.26 ERA). Wainwright is 2-1 with a 2.50 ERA over his last six starts, including five quality efforts. He's 12-7 with a 3.97 ERA lifetime against the Cubs.
St. Louis had an encouraging performance on Monday as Brandon Moss and Jhonny Peralta each homered while starter Jaime Garcia held the Cubs scoreless in six of seven innings pitched.
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Still, it appears the balance of power is shifting in the Central from the reigning champion Cards to their rivals in Chicago.
The presence of two ex-Cardinals has helped as John Lackey and Jason Heyward were subtracted in the offseason and moved to a new home with the Cubs.
Both were in the starting lineup on Monday as teams opened a three-game Wrigley Field series.
The pair has had varying degrees of success for the Cubs, who are 26 games over .500 and own a 21-7 record inside the division.
Lackey has had the bigger impact for the Cubs with a 7-3 record and 2.78 ERA as he made his third appearances against his old team on Monday. He is now 1-1 against the Cards.
The argument for Heyward may be less convincing, at least so far. A lifetime .266 hitter, he is batting .238 with four home runs and 24 RBIs. He went 1-for-5 Monday, but he showed signs of a revival last weekend, going 3-for-5 on Sunday against the Pirates and had three three-hit games in his last seven.
But Heyward has struggled in five games against his former team, batting .111 (3-for-27).
The Cardinals will get two more chances against the Cubs this week in this first series of the season at Wrigley Field.