(Updated: UPDATES Cubs standing with Milwaukee and adds Colorado result)
The first-place Chicago Cubs are off to a good start in distancing themselves from one of the two teams nipping at their heels as they host the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday afternoon in the middle contest of a three-game series. Chicago overcame a slow start before riding a seven-run sixth inning to an 8-2 victory Friday, increasing their lead in the National League Central over St. Louis to four games.
Also pursuing the Cubs are the Milwaukee Brewers, who remained three back after defeating the Marlins 10-2 in Miami on Friday. The Cardinals, who have six games remaining with Chicago - including four in St. Louis from Sept. 25-28, are 3 1/2 behind Colorado for the second NL wild card spot after the Rockies defeated San Diego 6-1 on Friday. The Cubs’ Kris Bryant delivered his second three-hit game in his last three contests Thursday with a solo home run and an RBI single, making him 8-for-16 with nine runs scored and eight RBIs in his last four games. The Cardinals’ Michael Wacha has won his last three starts and opposes Kyle Hendricks, who had a six-game unbeaten streak (2-0) halted in his last outing.
TV: 4:05 p.m. ET, FSN Midwest (St. Louis), CSN Chicago Plus
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cardinals RH Michael Wacha (12-7, 3.99 ERA) vs. Cubs RH Kyle Hendricks (6-5, 3.35)
Wacha allowed five hits and struck out seven in eight innings of a 7-0 victory over Pittsburgh on Sunday. The 26-year-old Iowa native has allowed five runs (four earned) over 20 innings during his winning streak, which also represents the first time he’s pitched six or more innings in three straight starts since July. Anthony Rizzo is 15-for-34 with three home runs and Bryant 8-for-22 with a homer and seven strikeouts versus Wacha, who is 4-5 with a 6.45 ERA in 14 games (12 starts) versus Chicago - 0-1, 9.58 in two turns this season.
Hendricks allowed three runs, four hits and two walks while striking out seven in six innings of a 3-1 loss to Milwaukee on Sunday. The 27-year-old Californian is 2-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 10 starts since the All-Star break. Hendricks is 1-2 with a 4.02 ERA in eight starts versus St. Louis, including a no-decision this season when he allowed four runs in four innings opposing Wacha on June 4 in the Cubs’ 7-6 victory.
1. Cardinals CF Dexter Fowler missed his fifth straight game Friday after injuring his knee crashing into the wall trying to make a catch last Saturday.
2. Chicago soon could be without C Willson Conteras, who was ejected Friday. He threw his mask to the ground in disgust and it bounced off the ground, inadvertently hitting home plate umpire Jordan Baker in the leg - a result that could lead to a suspension.
3. St. Louis 2B Kolten Wong left Friday’s game with lower back tightness.
PREDICTION: Cubs 3, Cardinals 2