Their longest win streak in six years may be over, but because of it the St. Louis Cardinals lead the NL Central.
With 12 remaining games against their struggling arch-rival, the Cardinals have to like their chances of remaining in first place.
St. Louis looks to begin a new winning streak when it opens a weekend series against the Chicago Cubs on Friday at Wrigley Field.
The Cardinals saw their run of eight straight victories end Thursday with a 2-0 loss in 11 innings to Philadelphia.
Managing just one hit, the Cardinals (54-42) couldn’t capitalize on Cincinnati’s loss earlier in the day but still enter this three-game set with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Reds.
St. Louis has won 12 of 19 meetings with the Cubs (43-53) since the beginning of 2009. That includes two victories during a three-game series at Wrigley from May 28-30.
Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan(notes) (0-5, 6.05 ERA) will try to change his fortunes when he takes the mound in the series opener. He’s 0-3 with a 4.20 ERA in six starts since joining St. Louis, which has given him a total of only six runs in support. The right-hander gave up one run over six solid innings Sunday against Los Angeles, but failed to get a decision in the 5-4 victory.
“He was very effective, did a lot of good things,” manager Tony La Russa told the Cardinals’ official website. “Hopefully, he will keep moving forward.”
Suppan is 6-10 with a 3.95 ERA in 25 career matchups with the Cubs. Chicago first baseman Derrek Lee(notes), who went 7 for 13 in this week’s series against Houston, is 24 for 56 lifetime off Suppan - his most hits against any pitcher.
Suppan will be opposed by Randy Wells(notes) (4-7, 4.33), who lost both of his career starts against the Cardinals, including a disastrous outing May 28 in which he allowed five runs and six hits and never retired a batter.
Like Suppan, Wells has been hampered by poor run support, receiving an average of 2.3 in his last 14 outings. The right-hander has a 1.63 ERA in his last four starts but has one win to show for it.
The Cubs have been maddeningly inconsistent on offense over their last nine games, scoring 48 runs in five wins but only nine in four losses.
They endured one of those anemic efforts Wednesday against the Astros, going 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position en route to an 11-inning, 4-3 defeat.
“If we would have got all the guys we left on (base) today, we would have scored 14 today,” said manager Lou Piniella, who announced Tuesday that he will retire at season’s end. “We just didn’t get them in.”