St. Louis Cardinals (21-15) vs. Chicago Cubs (15-19) MLB Betting Lines

Moneyline: Cubs (-128) Cardinals (+118)

Starting Pitchers: Cardinals (Westbrook) vs. Cubs (Garza)

The Red Sox and Yankees may have the most heated rivalry in baseball, but the Cardinals vs. the Cubs isn’t far behind. These two National League Central foes simply don’t like each other one bit. It was supposed to be a pitcher’s duel between Chris Carpenter and Carlos Zambrano last night at Wrigley, but instead the Cardinals won 6-4 in a game that saw 24 total hits. Can the Cubs bounce back in Game Two of this series?

The St. Louis Cardinals are without manager Tony LaRussa for this road trip. He stayed behind to recover from a case of the shingles. The Cardinals offense was horrible in the first week of the season, but they have recovered in a huge way ever since! St. Louis ranks first in the majors in both batting average and runs scored per game. Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday are both absolutely hitting the cover off the ball right now. Albert Pujols had been slumping this year, but he went 4 for 5 last night and his average is up to .268. Jake Westbrook struggled mightily in his first few starts, but he has three straight quality starts.

The Chicago Cubs bashed out 13 hits in last night’s loss to the Cardinals, but they could manage only four runs. The story of the Cubs in 2011 so far has been their inability to convert with runners in scoring position. The Cubs are third in the majors in batting average, but they are third to last in batting average with runners in scoring position. Aramis Ramirez has typically been a solid hitter in the clutch, but he has had trouble trying to convert on run scoring opportunities. Starlin Castro continues to impress and Darwin Barney is proving to be a solid addition at the top of the lineup. Matt Garza is just 1-4 this year, but he has pitched pretty well overall. Garza was roughed up by the Reds in this last outing, but he had been great in his three previous starts.

The Cardinals are playing just about as well as anyone right now, and the Cubs continue to squander scoring opportunities. I think Westbrook will limit the damage here, and I think the Cardinals lineup will continue to give the opposing pitcher a very tough time. I like the underdog in this one.

MLB Free Pick: Cardinals ML