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Preview: Cubs at Cardinals

GAME: Chicago Cubs (80-57) at St. Louis Cardinals (87-51)
DATE/TIME: Wednesday, September 09 – 1:45 PM EST
WHERE: Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Missouri
LINE: 119, -129 TOTAL: 7

The Chicago Cubs are closing in on clinching a wild-card spot, but if they keep up their play against the St. Louis Cardinals, the National League Central title might not be out of reach. The visiting Cubs aim for a three-game sweep in St. Louis on Wednesday as they send left-hander Jon Lester to the mound against Cardinals righty Carlos Martinez.

The Cubs climbed within 6 1/2 games of the Cardinals – and within two games of Pittsburgh for the first wild card – after an 8-5 victory Tuesday behind homers from Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. Chicago has outscored St. Louis 17-5 in the first two games of the series and is one win away from its first three-game sweep in St. Louis since 2010 – and its second since 1988. The Cubs have scored 39 runs and slugged 48 hits during a five-game winning streak and appear to have more offensive firepower on the way, as rookie slugger Kyle Schwarber pinch-hit Tuesday and could rejoin the lineup for the series finale. The Cardinals have dropped five of their last six but awakened from an offensive slump to score five runs in the seventh inning Tuesday, matching their total from the previous three games combined.

TV: 1:45 p.m. ET, CSN Chicago, FSN MIdwest (St. Louis)

PITCHING MATCHUP: Cubs LH Jon Lester (9-10, 3.59 ERA) vs. Cardinals RH Carlos Martinez (13-7, 3.04)

Lester snapped a three-start winless streak last time out, holding Arizona to two runs and five hits over five innings in a 14-5 win. The 31-year-old has recorded only one quality start in his last four outings after doing so in five straight turns coming out of the All-Star break. Lester has had tough luck against the Cardinals in three meetings this season, going 1-2 despite a 1.96 ERA thanks to five unearned runs.

Martinez might have hit a wall in his first full season as a starter, given he has posted a 5.13 ERA over his last seven starts. The 23-year-old Dominican had allowed three or more runs only three times in his first 18 starts of the season but has done so in seven straight. Martinez was rocked for seven runs in 3 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Cubs on May 4 but limited them to one run over six innings in a victory June 28.

WALK-OFFS

1. Rizzo, who recorded his 100th career home run and 300th career RBI Tuesday, has 12 RBIs against St. Louis this season, the most by any opposing player.

2. Cardinals 1B/OF Stephen Piscotty recorded his fifth game with multiple RBIs on Tuesday and has produced 18 of his 28 RBIs with two outs.

3. Chicago has homered in nine straight games and has 52 home runs in its last 27 contests.

PREDICTION: Cardinals 3, Cubs 2