The Cubs probably aren't thrilled to see Chris Carpenter's turn at the top of the Cardinals' rotation arrive in the series finale on Sunday.
After recording wins in the first two games of the series, the Cubs will encounter the Cards' co-ace, who has upgraded from good to dominant in recent starts. It doesn't help that Carpenter also sports a strong record against Chicago, having gone 10-3 with a 2.73 ERA over the past 10 years.
The Cards, on the other hand, need their stopper to be his usual tough self as they look to salvage the series finale and keep pace in the National League Central. The good news for the Cards is that Carpenter, who has tossed consecutive one-run eight-inning outings against the likes of the Phillies and Dodgers, is only getting stronger as the season progresses. The stellar recent results seem to be coming from an adjustment in his delivery, which was bothering him earlier this season.
"I will continue to work on [my delivery] between starts and try to get better again," Carpenter said after his last start. "I was throwing a lot of good sinkers, and they were hitting them into the ground. Early in the count, getting quick outs. And that's what happens when you throw quality pitches early in the count against a team that wants to hit."
His counterpart on Sunday, Cubs hurler Ryan Dempster, hasn't seen his season unfurl with the same level of consistent success, although it isn't entirely his own doing. The right-hander has allowed three runs or fewer in all but one of his past nine starts.
Dempster will need to have better control than in his previous outing, which saw him allow four walks in five innings to the Astros. Still, he's been one of the more consistent hurlers in the Cubs' rotation this year, and they'll need a quality start to secure the sweep on Sunday.
Cardinals: Ludwick looking forward to Dempster
Ryan Ludwick made his return to the Cards' lineup on Saturday afternoon, returning from a stint on the 15-day disabled list with an injured left calf. His return came just in time, too, as he'll be primed for a matchup against Dempster, whom he's always handled well. Ludwick, who went 1-for-3 on Saturday, is hitting .421 in 19 career ABs against the Cubs' right-hander. He should be buoyed by a dominant rehab start at Triple-A Memphis as well. "I'm hoping [it can carry over]," Ludwrick said. "The main thing is being back and trying to take each at-bat and making good at-bats. Whether it's trying to draw a walk, the most important part is trying to get good pitches to hit, and playing them when you hit them." His teammate Skip Schumaker has also found success against Dempster, hitting .419 in 31 career at-bats.
Cubs: Power surge paying off
The Cubs continued their July homer barrage on Saturday afternoon, with long balls from rookies Starlin Castro and Tyler Colvin. Chicago has now hit 30 homers in the month of July, currently tops in the Majors, just ahead of Toronto, which had 29 entering play on Saturday. The Cubs have also now hit multiple homers in 11 of their last 17 contests. Colvin's leadoff homer was his second leadoff blast in two days. He's the first Cub to accomplish that feat since Alfonso Soriano managed it in 2008.
The Cubs agreed to terms with their second-round Draft pick, HS outfielder Reggie Golden, on Saturday. He'll report to Mesa, Ariz., for some workouts. ... Matt Holliday extended his hitting streak to 10 games on Saturday, the one-year anniversary of his joining the Cards. ... With their win on Saturday, Chicago earned the series victory, breaking a 10-series losing streak against teams from its own division.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.