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MIL@STL: Garcia only gives up two hits to the Brewers

One of the oldest rivalries in the National League has been played almost evenly over the past two-plus seasons. Since the start of the 2009 season, the Cardinals hold just a 18-16 margin over the Cubs, but if Chicago is to take the series from its longtime nemesis, it will have to do something no club has yet to do this season -- beat Jaime Garcia.

The Cardinals left-hander has been one of the best in the National League so far this season, going undefeated (4-0) through his first seven starts. He was particularly dominant his last time out, sitting down the first 22 Brewers he faced before losing his perfect game in the eighth inning. The southpaw enters Thursday's start boasting the second best ERA in the NL (1.99), trailing only Marlins ace Josh Johnson and his 1.63 ERA.

Garcia has made only one relief appearance at Wrigley Field, lasting one inning. But do his feelings change about taking the hill in the home of the Cardinals' biggest rivals?

"Not really. I don't think it affects me going to any place. I try to treat every place I go the same. Do your work and prepare yourself before the game. That's about all you can do," Garcia explained.

Pitching coach Dave Duncan doesn't believe his left-hander will be any less effective at Wrigley, but has Duncan pinpointed any reason why Garcia has been much more successful at home (10-5, 1.85 ERA) than on the road (8-4, 3.83 ERA) during his young career?

"Not really," he said, "unless he's just more comfortable pitching at home."

Casey Coleman is only 24 years old, but he is no stranger to the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry. Thursday marks the second time the right-hander will take the ball at home against St. Louis, dating back to Sept. 25 of last season. That day, Coleman picked up the victory after holding the Cardinals to three runs (two earned) on five hits in seven innings. Coleman previously tossed two scoreless innings of relief in St. Louis on Aug. 13, 2010.

The Cubs starter aims to continue a recent trend of good starting pitching. In their last seven games, Cubs starters have allowed 16 earned runs in 46 innings and allowed two runs or fewer in five of those starts. Matt Garza was very sharp in Wednesday's 11-4 win, but the decision to take him out prior to the sixth inning -- his start was halted in the third inning by a 53-minute rain delay -- snapped a streak of six straight games in which a Cubs starter has lasted at least six innings.

Cardinals: Lohse stepping up
The Cardinals needed someone in their rotation to step up when Adam Wainwright was lost for the season. Kyle Lohse answered the bell. The right-hander is off to his best start since his 15-win season of 2008. Lohse has already equaled his win total from last season (four) and has gone at least seven innings in all but one of his starts.

Cubs: Byrd bouncing back
Marlon Byrd is in the midst of a much-needed turnaround. After falling into a 2-for-29 slump from April 13-20, Byrd has recovered by going (24-for-68) (.353) in his last 17 games. The Cubs center fielder has hit safely in 16 of those games. Byrd extended his hitting streak to a season-high 12 games Wednesday night. He is hitting .362 (17-for-47) during the streak. He is the only big leaguer to have two hitting streaks of at least nine games this season.

Worth noting
The Cubs have posted a .998 fielding percentage over their last 13 games, having committed just two errors during that span. Starlin Castro has been a big part of that streak, going 12 straight games without an error since committing three on April 25. Comments