The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals renew one of baseball’s great rivalries at Busch Stadium on Monday when they square off in the opener of a two-game series. The National League Central-leading Cardinals (20-14) will look to avoid a season-high four-game losing streak when they host the Cubs (14-20), who have split the first six meetings so far this season. Game time is scheduled for 7:05 (ET) with national television coverage provided by ESPN.
St. Louis was just swept in three games at home by the Atlanta Braves over the weekend, getting outscored 23-13 with the OVER going 3-0. The previous two games before that series both went UNDER the total, and the UNDER has also cashed in eight of the last 10 games against Chicago. The Cubs also saw the OVER go 3-0 in their weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers after the UNDER went 5-0 in their previous five games. Chicago dropped two of three to Milwaukee on the road but won the series finale 8-2 on Sunday.
The Cubs will send Ryan Dempster (0-1, 1.02 ERA) to the mound looking for his first victory of 2012. Dempster has surrendered only one earned run in his last three starts combined totaling 21 innings, walking four and striking out 21 during that stretch. The problem for Dempster has been a lack of run support, as Chicago is scoring an NL-worst 2.04 runs for him. He is holding opponents to a .164 batting average this season and has given up three runs or less in eight of his last nine starts at St. Louis.
The Cardinals will counter with Jake Westbrook (4-2, 1.76), who is coming off an impressive performance in a 6-1 road victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks last Tuesday. Westbrook pitched seven scoreless innings and allowed just four hits while walking two and striking out a season-high eight batters. He also pitched very well in his last start against Chicago back on April 15 at home, giving up one earned run and four hits in seven innings of a 10-3 rout. Westbrook is 4-2 lifetime against the Cubs overall with a 4.54 ERA in six career starts.
St. Louis has dropped four in a row at home overall, which is the team’s longest skid at Busch in two seasons. Chicago has the benefit of already seeing Westbrook once this season while Dempster will be facing the Cardinals for the first time this year. The Cubs were able to steal the series opener at St. Louis on April 13, and there is just too much value on them again in this spot.
Free Baseball Pick: Chicago Cubs +150