The Cardinals look like they’re ready to put an end to the Cubs’ brief run.
Following an impressive win in the opener of a key four-game series at Wrigley Field, first-place St. Louis seeks its eighth victory in 10 games Saturday against the slumping Cubs.
The Cardinals finished 11 1/2 games in back of Chicago in 2008, but are quickly creating some distance in the Central during a season-high 10-game swing.
St. Louis was percentage points behind Milwaukee when this trip started in Cincinnati on July 3. After taking four of six from the Reds and Brewers, the Cardinals defeated the Cubs 8-3 on Friday.
“That’s how you want to start a series,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.
St. Louis’ struggles against Chicago the past two seasons were a big reason why the club fell short in the division race. The Cards were 11-20 versus their archrivals in that span.
Ludwick had three hits and four RBIs Friday, and has driven in 10 runs in the last four games. The Cards have opened July with seven victories in nine games after losing six of their final seven games in June.
Chicago (41-42), meanwhile, has lost three in a row to drop 4 1/2 games back of St. Louis. The Cubs’ offense has struggled during the skid, plating only five runs while going 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position.
Lee provided all of Chicago’s offense in the opener with a three-run homer in the third inning. Lee has six home runs and 17 RBIs in nine games this month.
Thompson allowed five runs and nine hits - including two home runs - in five innings of a 5-2 loss at Cincinnati on Saturday, and has yielded 14 runs over 16 innings in losing his last three starts.
Lilly has been at his best at home, going 5-1 with a 1.96 ERA in eight starts, and the Cubs winning his last six outings. On Sunday, the left-hander gave up two runs and nine hits with nine strikeouts in 6 1-3 innings of an 8-2 home win over Milwaukee.
This will be Lilly’s first start of the season against the Cardinals at Wrigley. He gave up three runs and four hits in seven innings of a 3-0 loss at St. Louis on May 19.