The St. Louis Cardinals will continue their push toward the top of the NL Central standings when they go for a series win over the Chicago Cubs Sunday at Wrigley Field.
The Cardinals dropped Friday's opener, 7-0, but returned the favor with Saturday's 4-0 blanking of the hosts thanks to solid pitching. Joe Kelly got the win by keeping Chicago off the board through the first six innings, while Seth Maness, Randy Choate and Michael Wacha each tossed a scoreless inning.
Kelly, Maness and Wacha combined for 11 strikeouts.
"When he goes out there with that kind of confidence, it just transfers over to everybody else. And he's getting better," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Kelly.
Yadier Molina went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI and both Matt Carpenter and Carlos Beltran drove in a run for the Cardinals, who pulled within two games of Pittsburgh for the NL Central lead and sit atop the wild card standings with Cincinnati.
St. Louis, which has won four of six games, will visit Milwaukee on Monday to start a three-game series and hopes Adam Wainwright can pitch the club past the Cubs today. Wainwright is winless (0-2) in his last four starts and did not factor in the outcome of a 4-3 win versus Pittsburgh on Tuesday, as he struck out six, walked three and permitted three runs in seven innings.
Wainwright is 13-7 in 25 starts with a 2.71 ERA and 6-6 in 29 games, 20 of which have been starts, lifetime against the Cubs.
The Cubs are 1-4 on a 10-game homestand and lost for the fifth time in six tries with Saturday's setback. Travis Wood allowed four runs on four hits over 5 1/3 innings to absorb the loss and Nate Schierholtz posted two of the Cubs' five hits.
Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro had a blunder on the field in the fifth inning, as Jon Jay doubled, Pete Kozma walked and Kelly was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Castro caught a pop up by Carpenter in short left field, then put his head down and hesitated to throw home, looking as if he thought the inning was over. Castro's mental mistake allowed Jay to score on the play. It also resulted in Castro being pulled from the game.
"I knew the outs and everything, but I put my head down and made a mental mistake," Castro said. "I don't want to make any excuses for that. It's my mistake, and that's why I paid for that -- that's why I came out of the game. I feel really, really bad that it happened, especially with Woody pitching good."
Chicago hopes to rebound for a series win Sunday before it welcomes the Washington Nationals to town for four games.
Drawing the start for the Cubs Sunday will be Edwin Jackson. Jackson is 7-12 in 23 starts with a 5.05 ERA and has given up 11 runs over his last two starts. In last Sunday's 8-4 loss to the Cardinals, Jackson was tagged for four runs in five innings.
In 10 career meetings (9 starts) with St. Louis, Jackson, a right-hander and former Cardinal, is 2-4 with a 4.45 ERA.
St. Louis is 8-7 against Chicago this season.