Chicago has lost 14 of its last 16 games including a 6-3 defeat in the first game of this three-game series against its main NL Central rival. “We just didn’t hold the game in check,” manager Lou Piniella said. The Cubs are now also 1-7 in their 17-game stretch in which they face teams that either rank first or second in their division. The club is now 12-26 in series openers this season. Offensively, the team is awaiting the return of 3B Aramis Ramirez, who was withheld from Friday’s lineup with a sore left oblique muscle. Chicago has been a road underdog of +200 to +225 just once this year (-100) and three times over the last three seasons (-300). The team is a disappointing 26-33 in day games in 2010 (-1,550) and the total stands at 29-27 O/U in those contests. The Cubs average 4.5 runs and hit for a combined .258 average under the sun.
Cubs starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano is 3-6 with a 5.46 ERA in 26 games (10 starts) this season and hasn’t picked up a decision since June 25. He is 2-4 with a 7.23 ERA in 14 games (seven starts) on the road this season, issuing 26 walks and allowing 46 hits in 37.1 innings of work. Last time out, the right-hander tossed five innings and issued a career-high seven walks in a 4-3 setback in San Francisco. Zambrano has made 27 lifetime appearances (24 starts) versus the Cardinals, producing a 10-6 record and 3.50 ERA, including a perfect 4-0 mark and 1.62 ERA in five outings at Busch Stadium. He brings a 2-3 daytime record and 7.53 ERA in 12 daytime appearances, which is awful compared to his 1-3 mark and 3.79 ERA at night (14 outings).
St. Louis is looking to capture its fourth consecutive home series over the Cubs and the club has taken eight of 10 meetings at Busch Stadium since the start of last season. “Any time you can get a ‘W’, that’s why you pitch, to win ballgames,” Friday night starting pitcher Jake Westbrook said. “But more important, the team won.” The win allowed the Cardinals to stay one game ahead of the second-place Reds in the NL Central race, with the team winning four straight and six out of seven. The club is a solid 6-1 this season (+380) and 8-2 over the last three campaigns (+340) when made a home favorite of -225 to -250. It’s important to note that the Cardinals are 7-3 this month (+240) and the total stands at an impressive 8-1 O/U over that span.
Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter is 13-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 25 starts this season and the team has won six straight games with him on the hill. Over that span, he has allowed nine runs and 32 hits over 45.1 innings. The offense has also provided 34 runs of support in those games. The right-hander is a solid 9-2 with a 2.75 ERA in 14 home outings, as opponents are combining to hit for a .221 average. He will be making just his eighth daytime start, producing a 3-2 mark and 3.55 ERA compared to a 10-1 record and 2.66 ERA at night. In 19 career starts versus the Cubs, Carpenter stands at 10-3 with a 2.79 ERA, which includes a 1-0 mark and 2.63 ERA in two starts in 2010.
Bettors will likely shy away from the road team in this contest even with the value seemingly being on the Cubs with Zambrano’s past performances at Busch Stadium. It’s hard to ignore the Cardinals 38-18 home record this season (+680) and the team’s 47-12 record in Carpenter’s last 59 home starts.