St. Louis has struggled to hit with runners on recently -- evidenced by stranding 11 runners and going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position on Wednesday.
The Cards have lost five of their last six, and each of those games was decided by two runs or fewer. Manager Mike Matheny said his club's difficult stretch at the plate is a result of trying to do too much.
"We keep playing hard and we just keep playing the game," Matheny said. "We can't get too low on these ones, even though it's hard not to get too high like the first game of the series. But as far as how they're going about their at-bats, we threw up a bunch of hits [Tuesday]. Just couldn't get enough to add up too much."
Right-hander Kyle Lohse will make his second start since the All-Star break. Lohse leads Cardinals starters with a 1.10 WHIP and has logged a team-high 122 1/3 innings this season. He's allowed fewer than three earned runs in all but two of his starts, and he's 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA since June 4.
The Cardinals will face right-hander Ryan Dempster, who owns a 1.86 ERA this season and hasn't given up a run since May 30, totaling 33 scoreless innings over his last five outings. As a result, he has been the topic of many trade rumors, and Friday could be his last start in a Cubs uniform.
"It's flattering to know that a lot of teams want you," Dempster said. "But at the same time, I'm just worried about doing my job."
Dempster is the sixth pitcher since 1900 to win five straight starts in one season and not give up a run in those games. He joins Doc White (1904 White Sox), Don Drysdale (six straight starts for the 1968 Dodgers), Bob Gibson (1968 Cardinals), Orel Hershiser (1988 Dodgers) and Brandon Webb (2007 D-backs).
Cardinals: Holliday sits out with thigh contusion
Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday was not in the starting lineup against the Brewers on Wednesday due to a thigh contusion. Holliday took a pitch from Milwaukee starter Randy Wolf above his left knee on Tuesday, forcing him to leave the game in the first inning.
Holliday came on to pinch-hit Wednesday and struck out in the ninth. Holliday said after Tuesday's game that the injury was not serious. After going through some pregame tests, he was deemed available to play, but Matheny didn't want to push it.
Holliday's strikeout snapped a 15-game hitting streak, in which he batted .383. He's hitting .316 on the year and has brought his average up from .215 since May 1.
Carlos Beltran got a day off Wednesday, but doubled in a pinch-hit at-bat in the ninth. Matheny said the day of rest was planned for Beltran to keep him feeling fresh after playing in the All-Star Game and competing in the Home Run Derby.
Cubs: Baker stays hot at the plate
Cubs manager Dale Sveum continues to put Jeff Baker in the lineup, and Baker keeps rewarding his skipper.
Baker went 2-for-3 with a run scored in Thursday's win, and he is now hitting .338 (26-for-77) in his last 28 games. He has appeared in 10 of the Cubs' 14 games this month, and he has continued to platoon with lefty-swinging Bryan LaHair, who shifted to right field after the arrival of first baseman Anthony Rizzo.
"Probably the last two, three weeks, he's been swinging the bat a lot better than he was early, especially off left-handers, so he's been getting a lot of big hits, home runs and doing a great job off the bench," Sveum said of Baker. "You want to call it a platoon or not, it basically is now. He's just swinging the bat too well not to be in the lineup."
Lance Berkman is still searching for his first hit since coming off the disabled list on Saturday. He is 0-for-9 in five games.
Chicago left fielder Alfonso Soriano is a career .360 hitter (18-for-50) with three homers and 11 RBIs against Lohse.