To take the four-game series, the Cubs will look for an anxiety-free outing from starter Ted Lilly in Sunday night’s finale at Wrigley Field.
After dropping Thursday’s series opener, Chicago (7-4) has won consecutive games over the Cardinals (8-5) as its power hitters have come through in the clutch. Aramis Ramirez smacked a two-run home run in the 11th inning Saturday for a 7-5 victory, a day after Alfonso Soriano’s two-run shot in the eighth ended another back-and-forth game 8-7 in the Cubs’ favor.
The Cubs rallied from an early three-run deficit Saturday to take the lead in the sixth, before the Cardinals tied it two innings later.
“You don’t want to be in that position,” Ramirez, who is 9-for-17 (.529) in his last four games, told the Cubs’ official Web site. “You want to win the game in nine innings, but we made it happen.”
To contain the Cardinals, Lilly (2-0, 3.86 ERA) will try to build off his most recent start - Monday’s 4-0 win over Colorado. The left-hander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and cruised through 6 2-3, allowing one hit and three walks while striking out eight.
Lilly has had plenty of success against the Cardinals, with a 6-2 record and a 2.99 ERA in 11 career starts. He’s 4-0 the last seven times he’s faced St. Louis.
He’ll have to contend with a pair of hot-hitting Cardinals in Chris Duncan and Ryan Ludwick, who extended streaks in Saturday’s loss. With a hit in 12 straight games, Duncan is tied with Los Angeles’ Matt Kemp for the longest streak in the majors this season. Ludwick has a hit in all 10 games he’s played in 2009, and in 21 straight dating back to last season.
Duncan is 2-for-6 in his career against Lilly, while Ludwick has struggled, going 3-for-20 with nine strikeouts. Albert Pujols, meanwhile, has hit .321 (9-for-28) with two home runs versus the Cubs left-hander.
The Cardinals will give the ball to Todd Wellemeyer (1-1, 4.50 ERA). After struggling in his first outing, Wellemeyer bounced back Monday night by allowing one run over seven innings in a 2-1 win at Arizona.
Wellemeyer, who has alternated wins and losses in four career starts against the Cubs, will likely have to pitch deep into Sunday’s game as both bullpens have gotten considerable work during the series.
“Execution has to improve. Same thing yesterday,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said of his pitchers. “Their execution was better than ours.”
While he likely won’t start Sunday, Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley will be available after appealing his two-game suspension for making contact with umpire Larry Vanover while arguing balls and strikes in Thursday’s series opener.
Bradley hasn’t started in the last five games, and is 1-for-19 in his first season in Chicago.