While going through one their worst slumps of the season, the last thing the St. Louis Cardinals needed was another trip to Wrigley Field.
The Cardinals look for their first win of the season when they meet the Chicago Cubs on Friday in the opener of the final regular-season series between the teams.
NL Central-leading St. Louis (64-56) is 0-7 this season at Wrigley Field, including the first four-game sweep by the Cubs (52-68) since 1972.
“Unfortunately, I think if you followed our series in the last couple of years, you become accustomed to some odd things happening between the two teams, especially here for whatever reason,” Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen said during the teams’ last series. “I certainly can’t explain it.”
Starting with that sweep from July 27-30, St. Louis has lost 14 of 20, but still lead the division by 2 1/2 games over Cincinnati. The Cardinals took two of three from the Reds after Rolen helped them to a 2-1 win on Thursday.
Rolen’s hit his first homer since Aug. 7 in the seventh inning drove in Chris Duncan with the winning run in the ninth.
“The at-bats that are tough are ones in 8-1, 9-1, 10-1 games,” Rolen said. “Those are filling up stat sheets. I enjoy the competitiveness of an at-bat. Today, every at-bat was worthwhile. Every at-bat was meaningful.”
Rolen is hitting .362 (17-for-47) with a homer, six RBIs and seven runs in 13 games against Chicago this season.
To try and get the Cardinals’ first win on Chicago’s North Side, Jason Marquis (12-11, 5.71 ERA) will have to end a four-start losing streak that began against the Cubs. On July 28, the right-hander lasted just 3 2-3 innings, allowing six runs and eight hits in a 6-5 loss.
During the slide—Marquis’ longest since losing seven consecutive starts from July 21-Aug. 23, 2005—he’s given up 16 runs and 29 hits in 18 1-3 innings with three of those losses coming on the road.
“He’s been a little bit of a Jekyll and Hyde (type) this year,” Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan said after Marquis gave up two runs and three hits in six innings Sunday in a 7-0 loss to Pittsburgh. “The games he’s pitched well in, he’s kept the ball down and over the plate.
Marquis is 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA in three career starts at Wrigley Field.
Chicago will counter with rookie Carlos Marmol (5-5, 5.50), who did not receive a decision in an 8-7 win over Colorado on Sunday. The right-hander had perhaps the worst outing of his career, allowing six runs and eight walks over five innings.
“How many (walks) did he have?” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “Eight? That’s a lot. We just have to live with him—all of (the young starting pitchers).”
Marmol has walked 44 in his last eight starts, but is 4-2 with a 6.19 ERA in that span. He opposed Marquis last month and earned the win despite walking seven over 5 1-3 innings.
Chicago returns home after its first road sweep of the season, capped with a 1-0 victory over Houston on Thursday. Rookie Ryan O’Malley, making his major league debut after the Cubs used all 25 players in an 18-inning victory the night before, scattered five hits and walked six in eight innings.
Michael Barrett provided all the offense with a solo homer in the sixth inning.
“Obviously, we hope to finish the season strong and finish as close to .500 (as possible),” he said. “Mathematically, we’re still in this thing, and we’ll continue to play as hard as we can…. We’re going to try and piece together a season that’s been tough for all of us.”
St. Louis may have center fielder Jim Edmonds back in the lineup for this series after missing the last two games with post-concussion syndrome.
“He actually felt better today, and was actually talking about possibly playing tomorrow,” trainer Barry Weinberg said Thursday.
Edmonds is hitting .263 (10-for-38) with two homers and five RBIs in 11 games this season against the Cubs.