Cards seek to make up ground in NL Central against Cubs

The St. Louis Cardinals currently own the top spot in the National League wild card race, but still have their sights set on a division crown. The Cardinals hope to find success Friday in the opener of a three-game series versus the Chicago Cubs at Busch Stadium.

St. Louis is four games off the NL Central lead and just lost three of four meetings with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The club was outscored, 18-5, in the past two contests and suffered a 5-1 setback on Thursday.

Carlos Martinez took the hill in his first major league start for the Cardinals and was roughed up for four runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.

"I tried to battle, but that's how it ended up," Martinez said through an interpreter. "I just tried to go out and give it my all."

David Freese had three hits and Matt Holliday scored the only run for St. Louis.

Set to take the mound for St. Louis on Friday is Lance Lynn. Lynn is 2-0 in his last three starts and struck out 11 batters in eight innings of two-run ball Sunday at Cincinnati. Lynn pushed his record to 13-5 in 23 starts to go along with a 3.78 earned run average.

Lynn lost to the Cubs on July 13, but is 5-2 with a 3.50 ERA in eight career games (7 starts) against them. Those numbers could improve because Lynn is 8-1 in 11 starts at Busch Stadium this season.

Chicago lost for the ninth time in 11 tries with Thursday's embarrassing 12-1 loss at Philadelphia. Jeff Samardzija was banged around in the start and gave up nine runs and 11 hits in 3 1/3 innings.

"Just didn't have really anything," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Samardzija. "Unfortunately it just didn't go that well and hopefully he comes back out because we need some length from our starters soon."

Nate Schierholtz homered for the Cubs, who produced six hits and failed to build on Wednesday's 5-2 victory.

Chris Rusin will take the mound for the Cubs Friday and is 1-1 with a 3.98 earned run average in four starts. He has never faced St. Louis and is 1-0 in three road starts this season.

The Cardinals have won six of 10 matchups with Chicago this season.