Cubs-Cardinals Preview

The Associated Press

After failing to stifle one of the Chicago Cubs' top prospects, the St. Louis Cardinals are on the verge of matching their longest losing streak this season.

The Cardinals will seek to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat in Saturday's opener to a doubleheader, and Justin Masterson will try to shake off another lackluster outing while attempting to contain promising rookie Jorge Soler.

The Cubs (60-74) earned their eighth win in 12 games in Friday's series opener as Soler hit a pair of home runs. The outfielder, who also singled in the 7-2 victory, is 7 for 11 with three homers and six RBIs in his first three major league games.

"I feel so happy," Soler said through an interpreter. "I don't know how to explain it. Everything is going so good right now."

Another one of Chicago's top prospects, Javier Baez, hit a tiebreaking, two-run double in the eighth. Baez also hit three home runs in his first three MLB games Aug. 5-7.

The Cardinals (71-62) will try to bounce back from their third loss in 13 home games by avoiding their second four-game skid this season - the other occurred from July 20-25.

St. Louis will also attempt to extend its one-game lead over Atlanta in the NL wild-card race and cut its two-game deficit to Milwaukee in the NL Central during this doubleheader.

Masterson (2-2, 7.43 ERA) will try to help while perhaps aiding his chances of remaining in the rotation. The right-hander has hardly given the Cardinals what they were expecting when they acquired him from Cleveland on July 30 and he was pulled after giving up five runs in three innings in a 7-1 loss in Philadelphia on Sunday.

He's given up four or more runs in four of his five starts for St. Louis and pitched five innings or fewer in three of those.

"It's frustrating but I'm trying to stay positive," Masterson said. "It's my responsibility to pitch better. It's a hard thing when you're not doing it."

Masterson will make his first start against the Cubs and pitching opposite Felix Doubront, who will make his NL debut. The left-hander was placed on the disabled list (strained right calf) on Aug. 1, two days after Chicago acquired him from Boston.

Doubront was 2-4 with a 5.19 ERA in 10 starts this season for the Red Sox, the most recent June 20. He'll make his first start against the Cardinals but earned the win in relief in Game 4 in last year's World Series.

Red-hot Tsuyoshi Wada (4-1, 2.56) will head to the mound for the Cubs in Game 2 after taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning in Sunday's 2-1 victory over Baltimore. The rookie left-hander is 4-0 with a 1.96 ERA in his last six starts and will make his first against St. Louis.

The Cardinals are expected to call up Marco Gonzales (0-2, 7.07) from Triple-A Memphis for that game. The rookie left-hander made three starts - none against the Cubs - from June 25-July 6 before being sent back to the minors.

It's unknown if Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo will play in the doubleheader. Rizzo, second in the NL with 30 homers, has missed the past three games due to tightness in his lower back.

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