Saturday MLB Preview – Cardinals at Cubs

The Cubs aim to break a long-standing series losing streak against divisional opponents, but it will be tough against their long-time rivals.

St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs

St. Louis suffered a 5-0 road loss to the Chicago Cubs on Friday afternoon, which was the first time the club had been shut out in back-to-back games since September 1995.  It marked the first time in his 2,364 games as Cardinals manager that Tony LaRussa’s team had been blanked in back-to-back games.  Before this recent stretch, St. Louis had won eight straight games and outscored opponents 46-17 over that span, but have now been held scoreless in 20 consecutive innings since.  The team has bounced back nicely after suffering a loss, going 26-16 on the year (+440), but it’s important to note they are just 3-5 after getting shut out (-260).  The Cardinals are 20-16 in day games this season (-210) and the total is 15-19 O/U in those contests.

Cardinals starting pitcher Blake Hawksworth is 4-5 with a 4.85 ERA in 27 appearances (six starts) this season and comes in on a two-game winning streak.  In those two starts against Houston and Philadelphia, he has allowed six runs and 17 hits over 11.1 innings.  He has managed to throw at least five or more innings in each of his last five starts.  Hawksworth has been great in limiting damage with runners in scoring position, especially with the bases loaded, as opponents are hitless in seven at-bats with the bags full against him.  In three career outings versus the Cubs, he’s yet to record a decision and compiled a 2.45 ERA.  He made a relief appearance against Chicago earlier this season, allowing a run on two hits in just an inning of work.

Chicago trails the St. Louis Cardinals by 10 games in the NL Central race and shouldn’t gain much confidence in knowing they haven’t won a series over their rivals since April 16-18, 2009, at Wrigley Field.  The Cubs will also look to end a skid that has seen them drop 10-consecutive series against divisional opponents.  Entering today’s contest, Chicago has a .386 winning percentage (17-27) against divisional foes, which is a major drop off from seven-consecutive seasons with a .500 or better record against the NL Central. The lineup has hit 28 home runs this month, which is tied for first in the National League with Milwaukee over that span.  Third baseman Aramis Ramirez has led the charge, hitting a Major League-leading nine big flies this month.  Collecting a win after shutting out their opponent may be a tough task, as the team has dropped all five such games this season (-530) and 6-15 over the last three years (-1,670).

Cubs starting pitcher Tom Gorzelanny is an even 5-5 with a 3.12 ERA in 19 appearances (13 starts) this season, coming into this contest on a three-game win streak.  He enters this game 3-0 with a 2.38 ERA since returning to the starting rotation on June 30 and outperformed Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay last time out.  “We didn’t hit him,” said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel.  “Give their pitcher a lot of credit.  He did a good job.”  Gorzelanny hasn’t faced the Cardinals since June 2008, losing his last three decisions against them, as he’s 1-3 with a 3.82 ERA in six career starts.  The left-hander is 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA in 12 daytime appearances (seven starts), giving up just three home runs in 43.1 innings.

Bettors can expect a better performance out of the visiting Cardinals this afternoon, considering the club is 8-2 in the second game of the series in their last 10 chances.  Don’t get too involved due to the team’s 0-9 record as a road underdog of +110 to +150.  The Cubs are 1-7 in Gorzelanny’s last eight starts as a favorite and 0-5 when he faces up against the division.

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