The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals renew hostilities for the first time this season starting Friday when the Cardinals host the first of a three-game series.
The longtime rivals find themselves in familiar territory occupying the top two spots in the National League Central.
St. Louis enters the series in first place leading Chicago by three games.
And the Cardinals are about to have their rotation intact, as right-hander Carlos Martinez (3-4, 4.35 ERA) will return from the injured list to start Friday’s game against Chicago right-hander Kyle Hendricks (3-4, 5.27 ERA).
St. Louis will also activate right-hander Miles Mikolas (right shoulder) to start on Saturday, as he makes his season debut after missing the entire 2020 season with an injury to his right flexor tendon.
Cardinals manager Mike Shildt said the readiness of both pitchers prompted the timing of their returns more than just to bring them back against the Cubs.
“I also think it speaks to our confidence, rightfully so, in the starters we run out there every night irrespective of the opponent,” Shildt said. “If a guy is ready to pitch and it makes sense for the greater group, short- and long-term, they pitch.”
This news comes after the Cardinals shook off getting swept in three games at San Diego by sweeping a two-game set from Pittsburgh Tuesday and Wednesday when ace Jack Flaherty picked up his major league-leading eighth win.
“It means we’re playing some pretty good baseball,” Flaherty said. “We’re doing a pretty good job out there as a team.”
Martinez, who was out with a right ankle sprain, will pitch for the first time since May 8 when he gave up five runs on six hits and five walks in five innings against Colorado.
Martinez is 4-5 with a 4.69 ERA in 111 1/3 career innings (36 appearances, 16 starts) against the Cubs.
The Cubs have struggled on the road so far this season, losing 12 of their first 18 games away from Wrigley Field while the Cardinals are 14-8 so far at home.
But Chicago just won three of four at home against Washington and has won five of its past seven overall. Ian Happ hit two home runs in the Cubs’ 5-2 win on Thursday.
“Guys are starting to get healthy and in their rhythm as we talked about,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “Got a ton of confidence in these guys. It is a balanced offense. I think we’re taking advantage of the things the other team gives us.”
In his most recent start on Sunday at Detroit, Hendricks pitched a season-high eight innings and gave up one run on eight hits, striking out eight with no walks. Hendricks is 9-3 with a 2.88 ERA in 20 career starts against the Cardinals and is 4-1 with a 2.92 ERA in eight career starts at Busch Stadium.
“When I threw my last bullpen a couple days ago, everything felt really sharp and I was able to put my pitches where I wanted them,” Hendricks said after his last start.
The Cubs placed outfielder Jason Heyward on the 10-day injured list with a left hamstring strain and recalled outfielder Nick Martini from Triple-A Iowa.
Chicago did regain another lineup mainstay when first baseman Anthony Rizzo returned on Thursday after missing Wednesday’s game with lower back tightness.
–Field Level Media