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The Chicago Cubs aren't part of what is shaping up to be an exciting National League Central race, but they're still trying to leave their mark on it. A week after aiding the St. Louis Cardinals in the heated race by taking two of three from Pittsburgh, the Cubs welcome their rivals for a four-game series that begins Thursday. St. Louis has won five straight after posting a 5-4 victory over Houston on Wednesday to maintain its 1 1/2-game lead over the Pirates.
The Cubs had a four-game winning streak snapped Wednesday with a 13-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels. They're nine games below .500 and 15 games back of the Cardinals, so the fire sale to aid their rebuilding project is in full swing, with left fielder Alfonso Soriano, starter Matt Garza and closer Kevin Gregg drawing significant attention. The Cardinals, who have won four of six meetings with the Cubs this season, own the best record in the majors.
TV: 8:05 p.m. ET, FSN Midwest (St. Louis), CSN (Chicago)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cardinals RH Jake Westbrook (5-3, 2.78 ERA) vs. Cubs RH Edwin Jackson (5-10, 5.50)
Westbrook turned in a stellar performance in his last start, holding Miami to one run on three hits over seven innings to win for the third time in four outings. He didn't record a strikeout and hasn't had more than three in any of his last six turns. Westbrook is 6-2 with a 3.72 ERA in 10 career starts against the Cubs, including a win on June 19 in which he allowed an unearned run and two hits over seven frames.
Jackson's first season with the Cubs has been marked by inconsistency, but he has pitched well in winning his last two starts. He held Pittsburgh to one run on four hits over 5 2/3 innings his last time out. Jackson is 1-4 with a 4.85 ERA in eight games (seven starts) against the Cardinals, including a loss to his former team on June 19.
1. Soriano, who is 11-for-34 with six home runs in July, is 3-for-33 lifetime against Westbrook.
2. Cardinals C Yadier Molina, who leads the NL with a .343 average, is 9-for-15 with three home runs vs. Jackson.
3. Westbrook has not allowed a home run to a current Cubs player in a combined 148 plate appearances.
PREDICTION: Cardinals 6, Cubs 4