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Cardinals take NL Central lead to Wrigley Field

8:55 AM, Jul 11, 2013   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - The St. Louis Cardinals look to pad their lead in the National League Central on Thursday when they visit Wrigley Field to begin a four-game series with the Chicago Cubs.

St. Louis has won five straight to move ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates and open up a 1 1/2-game lead in the division entering its final series before the All-Star break. The Cardinals swept the Miami Marlins this past weekend, and then followed that up with a two-game sweep of the Houston Astros, capped by Wednesday's 5-4 triumph.

"This was a huge five-game stretch for us to win, come out here and win all these games at home, to get on a roll right before the All-Star break," Matt Carpenter said. "Hopefully we can continue it in Chicago."

The Cards took the lead for good in Wednesday's game on Carpenter's two-run home run in the seventh inning, after Houston had taken the lead in the top of the frame. Starter Shelby Miller went five innings and allowed three runs on five hits, issuing five walks to go along with five strikeouts.

Yadier Molina sat out with right knee inflammation but did make an appearance as a pinch-hitter. With the All-Star break around the corner, manager Mike Matheny will be careful how he deploys his All-Star catcher in this series.

The Cubs had a four-game win streak come to a halt in Wednesday's 13-2 shellacking at the hands of the LA Angels. Cubs pitchers gave up five home runs for the game and Chicago's offense was outhit, 15-5. Starter Jeff Samardzija was charged with nine runs over 4 2/3 innings.

For Thursday's series opener, Cubs manager Dale Sveum will turn to veteran right-hander Edwin Jackson to try and rebound from Samardzija's rough outing. Entering Wednesday, Cubs pitchers had posted a 2.50 ERA in July.

"The starting pitching, it'll always come back to that, keeping us in every ballgame," Sveum said. "We're giving up one to three runs after seven innings, six innings, and we're in all the ballgames and we're getting home runs."

Jackson is seeking his third win in as many starts. He gave up one run over 5 2/3 innings in a 4-1 win over the Pirates on Saturday.

For St. Louis, Jake Westbrook has gone 4-0 with a 2.35 ERA over his last six starts against the Cubs, and that includes a 4-1 home victory on June 19. Against Miami this past Friday, the right-hander gave up just one run on three hits over seven innings.

The Cardinals won three out of four when these teams met in St. Louis from June 17-20.

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