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The St. Louis Cardinals begin a critical series with the Chicago Cubs tonight that will see the two play five games over four days.
While the Chicago Cubs have been doing well, so have the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals are on a seven-game winning streak and are now 69-51. The Cubs are in third place in the NL Central, 52-68 but have gone 7-3 over their last 10 games.
While St. Louis has appeared to be a team on a mission over a couple of weeks, Chicago has been scrapping their way to become spoilers, taking two-of-three games from the struggling Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend.
Both of these clubs have had some changes to their roster since they last met. This is still one of the biggest rivalries in baseball and should be a fun series between the two.
Cards fans are hoping for success from the team’s old-man club of Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, and Albert Pujols. Pujols is attempting to reach the lofty goal of 700 home runs for his career and has had success at Wrigley.
Here are some keys to a series win against the rival Cubbies.
1. Cardinals starting pitching must go deep into the game
The Cards will be off to a good start on that goal on Monday night as their new starter Jordan Montgomery will take the mound.
Montgomery is 3-0 since joining St. Louis, going 16.2 innings, giving up three walks, striking out 17 batters, and has allowed just one earned run in that time. He will need to continue at this pace during his outing tonight.
The teams have a doubleheader on Tuesday. No pitcher has been announced for the set, but the Cardinals have Miles Mikolas pitching Wednesday and Dakota Hudson on Thursday. While Mikolas has pitched well, Hudson has struggled mightily, and the bullpen must be ready.
Ryan Helsley has been placed on the restricted list post a paternity list stint with the birth of his daughter, Elianna. This means the team will have to depend on other relievers. While Giovanny Gallegos has had his moments, they may be forced to use other options such as newly acquired Jojo Romero or Chris Stratton along with Genesis Cabrera or Andre Pallante.
The Cardinals’ starters must attempt to go as deep into their games as possible to avoid possible overuse of the bullpen.
2. Make sure Brendan Donovan gets some playing time
Donovan achieved legendary status in the Cardinals’ previous visit to Wrigley.
The rookie is not slated for the lineup in the series opener but will be a crucial option off the bench. He will likely be a starter during the doubleheader on Tuesday. Donovan played so well at Wrigley in June that he received boos from the home crowd.
This is always a good reaction for a Cardinal player!
3. While the stars have had success, they will need some help from teammates
Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, and Albert Pujols have been tremendous at the plate. But the Cardinals can not depend solely on this MV3. They must see some of their other everyday bats step up.
The Cardinals need Tyler O’Neill, Tommy Edman, and Dylan Carlson to snap out of their woes at the plate. O’Neill has struggled this season, hitting .230/.297/.352 with an OPS of .649 and seven home runs. Much more is needed from O’Neill.
Edman is hitting .253/.318/.367 with an OPS of .684, eight homers, three triples, and 20 doubles. He has been streaky of late and needs to find some consistency at the plate.
Carlson, who has taken over the role of center fielder after the trade of Harrison Bader, is hitting .243/.314/.392 with an OPS of .706 with eight homers, three triples, and 24 doubles. He has been very streaky but will be fun when fans see Carlson pick up the pace at the plate. He has already shown to be masterful in center field, and now, he just needs to put it together at bat.