St. Louis hasn’t scored in 20 consecutive innings and suffered being shut out in back-to-back games for the first time in 2,364 games under manager Tony LaRussa.  Expect a focused approach at the plate by the offense this afternoon, which may add to the club’s Major League-leading 38-9 record when scoring first in a game. The Cardinals can expect to bounce back with the club being 115-103 against the Cubs since LaRussa began his tenure in 1996.  The club is 26-16 in games following a loss this season (+440), but just 3-5 after failing to score a run (-260).  St. Louis has hit 53 home runs in its 47 road games, which is second only to the Milwaukee Brewers (64) amongst NL teams away from home.  The team is 6-9 when playing on Saturday this season and the total is 2-12 O/U in those contests.

Cardinals starting pitcher Blake Hawksworth is set to make his seventh Major League start today, fifth on the road and first against the Chicago Cubs.  He began the season with 21 relief appearances, as he’s thrown five or more innings in each of his last five starts since moving to the rotation.  The right-hander comes in on a two-game winning streak, allowing six runs and 17 hits in 11.1 innings.  Hawksworth has made 11 daytime appearances (two starts) in 2010, posting a 2-1 mark and 4.18 ERA.  In 14 road outings (four starts), he is an even 2-2 with a 4.86 ERA, as opponents have hit for a combined .314 average.  The second-year hurler has made three previous appearances versus today’s opponent, allowing a single run and five hits in 3.2 innings.

Chicago remains 10 games back of the division-leading St. Louis Cardinals, but the clubhouse is definitely focused on cutting into that lead.  “We can make up a lot of ground,” outfielder Alfonso Soriano said after the series opener.  “If we sweep them, we get three games.”  The problem with this thinking is the Cubs haven’t won a series over today’s opponent since April 16-18, 2009.  The team is also suffering through a stretch that has seen them drop 10 consecutive series against NL Central opponents.  The season series is tied at two games apiece, after the Cubs managed to win just six of 16 meetings last season.  Chicago is 17-27 against the division (-2,150) and the total is 18-22 O/U in those games.

Cubs starting pitcher Tom Gorzelanny is making his 20th appearance and 14th start in this afternoon’s game, posting a 5-5 mark and 3.12 ERA.  The left-hander is the only pitcher in baseball to make at least 10 starts with a sub-3.25 ERA and have five or fewer victories.  He is 3-0 with a 2.38 ERA in his four starts since returning to the rotation.  Gorzelanny is also 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA during 12 daytime outings (seven starts) compared to a 2-4 mark and 3.38 ERA at night.  In six career starts versus the Cardinals, he is 1-3 with a 3.82 ERA.

Bettors are going to circle the home team’s 0-5 record after recording a shut out in their previous game (-530), especially with them being 6-15 in this spot the last three years (-1,670).  This fits nicely with the Cardinals being 7-0 in their last seven games when their opponent allows two runs or less.