The St. Louis Cardinals’ arduous season in Chicago ends on Sunday as the team closes a three-game set against the pesky Cubs.
The Cardinals (65-57) won in the Windy City for the first time this season on Friday, beating the Cubs 11-3. St. Louis came into the series 0-7 this season against the Cubs (53-69) at Wrigley Field.
This will be the team’s last game in Chicago this year unless it was to make the World Series and face the defending champion Chicago White Sox. St. Louis has gone 0-3 this year at their home park, U.S. Cellular Field.
“That’s the first time we’ve seen the bottom of the ninth in this town,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said after Friday’s win. “It’s about time.”
The Cardinals are the only division leader to have a record below .500 against their own division. They are 28-32 against the NL Central, including a 4-11 mark versus the Cubs.
St. Louis did receive some good news Saturday with the return of Jim Edmonds, who scored the game-tying run in the ninth on Ronnie Belliard’s double. The Cardinals center fielder walked as a pinch hitter in the ninth and returned to the field for the remainder of the game. Edmonds missed the team’s previous three games because of post-concussion syndrome.
St. Louis has dropped seven of 11, and is 7-15 since July 26 as its NL Central lead has been cut to 2 1/2 games over the second-place Cincinnati Reds.
On Sunday, the Cardinals will hand the ball to Chris Carpenter (11-6, 3.09 ERA). The 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner was dominant Tuesday against the Reds, throwing a four-hitter in a 5-0 win for his second shutout of the season. Carpenter struck out six and didn’t walk a batter.
“I was locating really well and wasn’t trying to overpower anybody,” Carpenter said. “I was just trying to hit the glove and my cutter was good. Everything was good.”
The right-hander had gone 0-2 with a 7.94 ERA over his previous three starts.
One of those poor outings came July 30 at Wrigley, pitching a season-low four innings as he allowed five runs in a 6-3 defeat.
Despite that performance, Carpenter is 6-2 with a 3.36 ERA in 11 starts against the Cubs, including two complete games. He threw six scoreless innings in the Cardinals’ 3-2 loss at Chicago on April 8 in his only other start this year against the Cubs.
Chicago counters with Juan Mateo (1-0, 3.00), who is making his third start and fourth appearance in the majors.
Called up earlier this month from Double-A West Tennessee, Mateo was the Cubs’ starting pitcher in the team’s 18-inning, 8-6 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday. The 23-year-old right-hander allowed two runs and four hits in five innings.
Mateo has never faced the Cardinals.
The teams close out the season series with a three-game set in St. Louis from Aug. 25-27.