The Chicago Cubs effectively knocked one rival out of the National League Central race over the weekend, and they can officially eliminate another as early as Monday. The Cubs’ magic number to clinch the division crown is two heading into a four-game road series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cubs lead second-place Milwaukee by 5 1/2 games and can go six up with six to play with a win Monday, as the Brewers are idle. The Cardinals are six back in the division and fighting to remain in the NL wild-card race, trailing Colorado by 2 1/2 games for the final playoff spot. St. Louis lost the final two contests of its three-game series at Pittsburgh over the weekend, while the Cubs took three of four from Milwaukee and have won 10 of their last 12. Chicago leads the season series 11-4.
TV: 8:15 p.m. ET, MLB Network, CSN Chicago, FSN Midwest (St. Louis)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs LH Jon Lester (11-8, 4.56 ERA) vs. Cardinals RH Luke Weaver (7-1, 2.05)
Lester had won three straight starts before he was tagged for seven runs over 4 1/3 innings of a loss at Tampa Bay on Wednesday. The 33-year-old has been inconsistent since the All-Star break with seven quality starts in 11 outings but a couple of clunkers mixed in. Lester is 4-4 with a 2.36 ERA in 13 career starts against the Cardinals, including a 1-1 mark and 3.28 ERA in four meetings this season.
Weaver has been lights-out of late, winning his last seven starts with a scoreless relief appearance sprinkled in. The 24-year-old is 7-0 with a 1.61 ERA since his only loss of the season and has 58 strikeouts to go along with eight walks in 44 2/3 innings over that span. Weaver faced the Cubs in his big-league debut last season and gave up two runs over four innings in a no-decision.
1. The Cubs are 41-28 against NL Central opponents.
2. St. Louis C Yadier Molina is 12-for-32 with three doubles and a homer against Lester, but the rest of the Cardinals’ roster is a combined 29-for-159 against the southpaw.
3. Chicago 3B Kris Bryant has reached base in 11 straight games and is batting .329 with 22 doubles, two triples, 10 homers, and 31 RBIs in 69 road games.
PREDICTION: Cubs 4, Cardinals 3