Whether you’re a fan of the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals or baseball in general, this series is bound to be worth a watch. Believe it or not, these two are the hottest teams in baseball, but something’s got to give. The series gets underway May 3 and ends May 5 at Wrigley Field. The Cardinals currently have a 19-10 record (as of May 1) and the Cubs are three games back with a 15-12 record.
Here’s a quick look at how the month of April shaped up for both teams:
St. Louis Cardinals (as of Wednesday, May 1)
The redbirds have the best record in the league, owning a five-game win streak with their 5-1 win over the Washington Nationals on May 1. That win also guarantees they win the series over the Nats, regardless if they lose the last game or not. St. Louis has lost once in the past 11 games, winning series over the Mets, Brewers, Reds and now the Nats.
During their recent four series of play, the Cardinals have outscored their opponents 69-43, scoring 10+ runs twice and allowing as many once. In the month of April, the Cardinals sported a 17-7 record with 12 wins at Busch Stadium.
After the rough start to the season, Chicago has really started to turn things around. They’re currently riding a four-game win streak and have won seven of their last 10. Through mid-April, the Cubs had one of, if not the worst record in the league. In the month of April, they finished with a 14-9 record and won six series and tied another (rubber-match was rain delayed).
They got a jolt going through the organization by playing and sweeping the bottom-feeding Miami Marlins by a combined score of 17-2, which included two shutouts. They took that momentum into a series against a hot Diamondbacks squad, winning two of three, then doing the same against the Dodgers. Most recently, Chicago beat the homer-happy Seattle Mariners 17-5 in a two-game series, shutting them out 11-0 in game two.
Kyle Hendricks (CHI) vs Jack Flaherty (STL)
Hendricks has been one of the few inconsistent starting pitchers on the Cubs’ rotation, throwing one great game so far this season. He’s shown glimpses of how commanding he can be, but the stuff just hasn’t been there from game to game.
The Cardinals turn to one of their trusted hands in Flaherty, who currently has a 3-1 record on the year. While he doesn’t have a great ERA, Flaherty has struck out 36 in 31 innings pitched. His downside is giving up seven dingers, and the Cubs will try to exploit that with their hot bats as of recent.
Yu Darvish (CHI) vs Michael Wacha (STL)
Darvish has been trying to get past his injury-riddled season last year. Many fans questioned the huge contract the Cubs signed him for, but he’s pitched like an ace at times this season. After a rough start with numerous walks, Darvish has settled down, winning two of five starts so far.
Wacha has proven to be one of their top arms in seasons past and has shown the same this season. He enters this match-up with a 2-0 record but, like Darvish, has suffered a problem with walk-rates in some of his games.
Jose Quintana (CHI) vs Adam Wainwright (STL)
While Jon Lester may be listed as their top ace, Quintana has had a strong season to contend for the spot. He’s thrown one mediocre game but has been strong since with a 3-1 record. Q has been in control of his game, walking only nine batters and has struck out 38 in just over 33 innings pitched.
Wainwright suffered some injuries last season and his absence was felt with some starting rotation inconsistency. He’s returned strong this season, resuming one of the top roles with a 3-2 record and an ERA below 4.00. Wainwright doesn’t have as high a strikeout/inning ratio but has kept his walk numbers down, with 12 walks so far this season.
It took some time but the bats from the Cubs’ stars have finally started to come alive. Anthony Rizzo has gone deep four times in the past five games. In fact, the Cubs in general have an eight-game streak of hitting at least one homer. Javier Baez is leading the team with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs. Kris Bryant also started the year with a low batting average but then turned it around in their last few games. He hit two homers in their series against the Diamondbacks and currently has 14 RBIs on the year.
Even with a day of rest, the Cubs are coming off their most complete performance of the season, shutting out the explosive Mariner’s offense 11-0 on May 1. Chicago’s offense hasn’t been the issue for their lack of success at times year this, more directed at the starting rotation and bullpen. Four of the five starting pitchers (apart from Hendricks, whose shown glimpses so far) have found their stuff and the bullpen has been strong like the Cubs’ brass hoped they would be this year.
Other than from their fan base, the Cardinals haven’t been shown a whole lot of love despite climbing the standings. They’ve swept the Brewers once and crushed the Dodgers when they were at the top. St. Louis hasn’t exactly been dominating teams as of recent, winning by an average of just under three runs during their five-game win streak.
Paul Goldschmidt made an immediate impact this season by opening the year with five homers in his first seven games. Since then, he’s reigned it in with nine homers on the season. Other Cards to watch for include Marcell Ozuna, whose tallied as many as five RBIs in one game, and Paul DeJong, who currently leads the team with a .336 batting average in at least 100 at-bats.
This series always brings out the best of both teams and they only play each other so many times each year. In 2015, the Cards wound up winning the NL Central and the Cubs finished three games behind them but still squeezed in as a Wild Card. Last season, the Cubs made the Wild Card and St. Louis was out by 6.5 games. The Cubs and Cards will play each other 19 times this season with six of their games falling between May 31 and June 9. Something of note, the Cubs are Cardinals end the regular season with a three-game series facing each other.