Saturday, April 12, 2014
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Preview: Cubs At Cardinals

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[April 12, 2014]  No one expects the Chicago Cubs to seriously contend in the tough Central Division, but it doesn't appear they'll be anywhere near the pushover that lost 197 games over the past two seasons. Chicago looks to make it two straight over the Cardinals when they visit St. Louis on Saturday in the second contest of a three-game series. The Cubs on Friday let a two-run lead slip away in the ninth inning before Welington Castillo's three-run homer gave Chicago a 6-3 victory in 11 innings.

The Cubs may have a problem at the back end of the bullpen as Jose Veras on Friday blew his second save in as many chances by hitting two batters, walking a pair, allowing a single and uncorking a pitch that was ruled a passed ball but could have been recorded a wild pitch. "A shaky outing," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said afterward of Veras (12.27 ERA), "but he's still our guy." Carlos Villanueva was saddled with the loss out of the bullpen in each of Chicago's first two games of the season before winning his first start of 2014 and will oppose Adam Wainright, who said he's close to getting control of his cutter.

TV: 2:15 p.m. ET, CSN Chicago, FSN Midwest (St. Louis)


PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs RH Carlos Villanueva (1-2, 4.26 ERA) vs. Cardinals RH Adam Wainwright (1-1, 1.29)

Villanueva worked out of the bullpen to start the season when the schedule didn't call for a No. 5 starter, but rejoined the rotation in fine fashion Sunday when he allowed one run in five innings of Chicago's 8-3 victory over Philadelphia. The 30-year-old Dominican Republic native has made 72 career starts  44 in the last three seasons. Villanueva is 5-4 with a 3.44 ERA in 31 appearances (10 starts) against St. Louis and has fared well against Yadier Molina (5-for-25).

Wainwright has struggled with his command at times, walking six in 14 innings after issuing only 35 in 34 starts last season. The 32-year-old Brunswick, Ga., native allowed two runs in seven innings in a 2-1 loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday after recording seven shutout frames in a 1-0 victory at Cincinnati on March 31. Wainwright is 8-6 with a 4.24 ERA in 31 appearances (21 starts) against Chicago, with Darwin Barney (8-for-26, home run, five RBIs) enjoying some success.

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WALK-OFFS

  1. Cubs SS Starlin Castro has 566 hits since the start of 2011, most among major league shortstops.

  2. St. Louis' Matt Holliday (11) has the most home runs and Molina the most RBIs (42) by any player against the Cubs since the start of 2011.

  3. Cardinals SS Jhonny Peralta is off to a 2-for-31 start  both home runs.

PREDICTION: Cardinals 3, Cubs 2

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