As disappointing a first half of the season it’s been for the Chicago Cubs, sweeping a doubleheader over the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals in the final day before the All-Star break would bring them into the mix for first place.
A Cardinals sweep, though, would push the Cubs the farthest they’ve been out of the top spot all season.
The longtime rivals both look to create some momentum for the second half of the season when they meet Sunday at Wrigley Field in an important day-night doubleheader.
After losing 8-3 in Friday’s opener to fall 4 1/2 games off the pace, Chicago (42-42) bounced back with a 5-2 victory Saturday.
Aramis Ramirez(notes) drove in his first run since coming off the disabled list Monday after missing two months due to a dislocated shoulder for the Cubs, who ended a four-game losing streak to their archrivals.
“We’ll see where we are after the second game tomorrow night. We could be 1 1/2, 3 1/2 or 5 1/2 (out). We’ll find out,” Chicago manager Lou Piniella said.
The eight-time All-Star is batting .423 (11 for 26) with three home runs and seven RBIs in his last eight games against the Cubs, and he’ll look to continue to make things difficult for Carlos Zambrano(notes) (4-4, 3.47 ERA) in the opener.
Zambrano was tagged for seven runs and nine hits - including three home runs - in seven innings of an 8-7 win over the Cardinals on April 17, and is 0-2 with a 16.62 ERA in his last three starts versus them. He was 8-0 with a 1.37 ERA in his previous 11 starts against St. Louis.
On Tuesday, Zambrano gave up two runs and five hits with six strikeouts in six innings of a 2-1 loss to Atlanta. The right-hander has not won since beating Cincinnati on June 5, despite posting a 3.12 ERA in six starts since then. He’s had virtually no help from his offense, receiving one run or fewer five times in that span.
Lohse hasn’t pitched since leaving against Cincinnati on June 3 because of a right forearm strain. He originally hurt the arm on May 23 against Kansas City after being hit by a pitch.
In a rehab start for Triple-A Memphis on Tuesday, the right-hander allowed two hits and struck out six in six scoreless innings.
Lohse gave up four runs and five hits in five innings of a 7-5, 11-inning loss to the Cubs on April 18.
After allowing one run and six hits with a career-best 12 strikeouts in nine innings of the Cardinals’ 2-1, 10-inning win over San Francisco on July 1, Wainwright gave up seven hits and struck out nine in 8 1-3 innings of a 5-0 win over Milwaukee on Tuesday.
“If I keep going out and competing and battling the way I’ve been, eventually, one day before the end of my career, I will get one shutout,” the right-hander said.
In three starts versus the Cubs this season, Wainwright is 2-0 with a 2.49 ERA.
Wells gave up two runs and seven hits in six innings of a 4-2 win over Atlanta on Monday. He has posted a 2.36 ERA in winning his last four starts and has yielded two runs or fewer in nine of his 11 outings since being called up from Triple-A Iowa in May.
This will be his first career start versus the Cardinals.