Rivalry week for Cubs, Cardinals

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There was an uproar in the Chicago Cubs clubhouse when a preseason Baseball Prospectus projection had the franchise pegged for a sub-.500 campaign in 2019.

At first, it appeared that outlook would be coming to fruition based on a troubling 3-8 start. But after winning 11 of its next 15 to vault into a tie for second in the National League Central Division, it’s apparent Chicago is still for real.

The Cubs’ resurgence will certainly be tested this weekend when they welcome the first-place Cardinals into the Friendly Confines for the first time this season. The two storied rivals will commence a three-game set.

St. Louis has looked real strong in the early going to springboard above the competition in the division. Entering Tuesday’s action, they had won eight of nine, a streak during which they plated 67 runs. They also sport the best record in the league.

Let’s see if the Cardinals’ heavy lumber will continue to prevail in this critical series at Wrigley Field.

Jack Flaherty vs. Kyle Hendricks (Friday): The Cardinals’ starting pitching staff surprisingly ranks 11th in the NL in team ERA (4.67), but if there’s one pitcher who can start to significantly bring that down, it’s the 23-year-old Flaherty. Of course, it was last year when he burst onto the scene in his first full season, notching a 3.34 ERA and 10.8 K/9 across 28 starts. He also held opposing batters to a stingy .199 average.

Three of those outings came against the Cubs, whom he held to a .182 mark while punching out 19 batters in 12.2 innings. Trending back up, Flaherty is someone to tail in his next start.

Hendricks, meanwhile, has been going in the opposite direction thus far, lasting beyond the fifth inning only once thus far. However, the six-year veteran does have desirable numbers opposite the Cards, being 5-2 with in 14 career starts with a 3.38 ERA. Look for him to keep up with Flaherty in this afternoon affair. UNDER

Michael Wacha vs. Yu Darvish (Saturday): In this nationally-televised FS1 affair, Darvish will seek to keep it going after his most impressive effort of the year when he held a tough Diamondbacks lineup to just one run on two hits while tying a season-high with eight K’s. Now that he’s finally healthy again, the former Texas Ranger ace can be trusted for similar performances from here on out.

But how will Wacha fare? The seventh-year Cardinals right-hander has been inconsistent in the first month-and-change of ‘19, seeing his ERA inflate more than three full runs over his last three starts. Given his poor history against the Cubs (4-8, 6.65 ERA, 1.56 WHIP), another volatile outing looks to be in the, well, cards. OVER

Adam Wainwright vs. Jose Quintana (Sunday): The series wraps up with another national TV game, this time on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. It could be the highest-scoring meeting of the three games as well judging by the pitching matchup.

Wainwright has a lengthy history going against the Cubs, as well as pitching at their ballpark. As Waino’s game has declined, though, so, too, has his ability to survive at Wrigley. He’s made five starts there in the last three years, getting tagged for a 5.47 ERA and 1.37 WHIP.

The other hurler, Quintana, has also had some difficulties with this opponent since joining the rivalry. In his first full year with the Cubs a season ago, he went 1-3 with a 4.74 ERA and 1.79 WHIP vs. the Cards. There could be at least one crooked number on the scoreboard when this series finale is complete. OVER

Last Week: 1-1

Season: 7-7

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