Cubs, Cardinals Meet For Crucial 4-Game Series

The Cubs trail the NL Central-leading Cardinals by three games.

Bruce Levine
September 19, 2019 - 8:51 am
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CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- Few rivalries in sports match the intensity of the Cubs and Cardinals playing meaningful games in a playoff race.

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And that's exactly what awaits now, as the Cubs host the Cardinals in a four-game series beginning at Wrigley Field on Thursday night. It will be the first of seven games between the teams in the final 11 days of the regular season.

As they meet, it's the Cardinals who lead the NL Central by three games over the Cubs and Brewers, who are tied for the second wild-card spot. St. Louis enters on a positive note, having won two of three against Washington's three aces. Chicago enters on a sour note, having dropped its past two games to Cincinnati, including a 3-2 setback in 10 innings Wednesday night.

"Brand-new day," Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber said. 

"Try and take a one-game series each day. This will give us a good taste of playoff-type baseball this weekend. Some of our younger guys will be pumped up, and they should be. This is an exciting time to be a Cub and an exciting time to be a Cubs baseball player."

The Cubs are seeking their fifth straight postseason appearance and third division crown in the past four years. The Cardinals have made the playoffs since 2015, when they won the division and lost to the Cubs in four games in the NL Division Series.

"When you get here as I did in 2015, you get a real sense of what it is," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of the energy in the rivalry. "Now it's even exaggerated more since what is going on. I think it is great. There is no more fun than playing these games right now. Of course, we are expecting a good result."

The Cubs hold a 7-5 advantage in the head-to-head competition this season, winning all six games at Wrigley Field. While the Cubs' hopes of having control of the NL Central by now have vanished, they do understand the opportunity that still awaits them.

"You are looking at that schedule at the beginning of the year and you are hoping you have an eight-game lead by the time it occurs," Maddon stated. "Then you get into the position we are in, and you're thankful there are that many games to play against them."

The Cubs probably need to win three of the four games this weekend to make a run at the NL Central title. Doing that would leave them one game back with six to play. A series split would leave the Cardinals in control with a week to go. 

"We obviously know who is coming in to play us this weekend," Cubs left-hander Jon Lester said late Wednesday night. "We knew what lies in front of us. We have to play good baseball this weekend. Hopefully we can do that. We can't look past the game tomorrow. Once 6:15 comes, we will show up ready to go. We will battle and hopefully it is positive on our end. Nobody in that clubhouse is naive to what is going on. We know how big the weekend is. If you think beyond tomorrow, you lose your sight on the next game. We need to worry about that."

Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks opposes Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty in the opener. Hendricks is 8-2 with a 2.74 ERA against the Cardinals in his lifetime and has been even more dominant against them this season, going 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA in three starts.

 Flaherty has arguable the baseball's best pitcher in the second half, going 6-2 with a 1.05 ERA and holding opposing batters to a .157 average. 

"Kyle is Kyle," Schwarber said. "He will just go out there and be himself. We need to play good defense behind him and get ready to go."

Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine​.