The St. Louis Cardinals have a tall order in front of them Wednesday if they plan to sweep the Chicago Cubs.
The Redbirds face reigning Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta on his home field. But St. Louis can’t afford the luxury of ceding a game to Chicago after allowing its National League Central deficit to balloon with a five-game losing streak at Busch Stadium on the eve of this series.
The Cardinals also shouldn’t run up the surrender flag against Arrieta because they’ve been more successful against him than most.
Arrieta has a 7.20 ERA against St. Louis in 2016. He was chased from his last start against the Cardinals after only five innings. Arrieta surrendered seven hits and four earned runs in that contest. Cardinals batters are hitting .304 against him this season. Only the Arizona Diamondbacks have a better mark, .333.
Arrieta will be countered by struggling St. Louis starter Michael Wacha, 2-7 with a 4.56 ERA.
Wacha has pitched much better recently than he did earlier in the season.
He’s combined for 14 2/3 innings in his last two starts against a pair of formidable teams -- the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers -- with a total of nine hits and three runs allowed. In that span, Wacha has struck out 12 and walked five while lowering his ERA by more than half a point.
Those are much better results than Wacha’s last start against the Cubs in which he lasted only four innings with eight hits and eight earned runs allowed. That came on May 24 in the midst of the tall righty’s deepest funk of the season.
It wouldn’t completely cleanse Cardinals fans’ palate of their five-game homestand sweep to take three in a row from the Cubs. But it would be a great first step.
A win would put the St. Louis deficit in the standings back in the single digits and would give new hope that this frustrating season can still be turned around.