After a seven-game homestand to start the season, the St. Louis Cardinals finally get a chance to raise their World Series championship banner this afternoon at Busch Stadium.
The Cards return home today to face the Chicago Cubs, of course without Albert Pujols and manager Tony LaRussa, but right-hander Adam Wainwright makes his first start in front of his fans after missing all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Wainwright was a 20-game winner for the Cardinals in 2010 before missing the team's championship campaign from a year ago with the elbow injury. He returned on April 7 at Milwaukee and dropped a 6-0 decision in his debut after allowing three runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings.
He's 6-4 in 23 career appearances with four holds and a 4.09 earned run average across 99 innings against Chicago, walking 30 batters and striking out 94.
For the Cubs, right-hander Jeff Samardzija starts for the seventh time in his career and the second time in 2012. Samardzija allowed an earned run on four hits in 8 2/3 innings against Washington on April 8, winning a 4-3 decision over the Nationals.
A fifth-round pick of Chicago in 2006, he debuted with 26 appearances in 2008, then made 20 in 2009 and seven in 2010.
He became a full-time major leaguer last season while making 75 appearances and posting a 2.97 ERA in 88 innings with 87 strikeouts.
On Thursday in Chicago, Matt Garza tossed 8 2/3 shutout innings as the Cubs avoided a sweep with an 8-0 drubbing of the Milwaukee Brewers in the final game of a four-game series at Wrigley Field.
Garza (1-0) allowed just three hits and two walks while striking out nine for the Cubs, who are off to a 2-5 start this season.
Starlin Castro went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI, Alfonso Soriano knocked in a pair of runs, while Reed Johnson, Ian Stewart and Darwin Barney all drove in a run for Chicago.
Meanwhile, in Cincinnati on Wednesday, pinch-hitter Chris Heisey lined the second pitch he saw into left-center field to score the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning, lifting the Reds to a 4-3 win over the Cardinals.
Jon Jay hit a two-run homer for the Cardinals, who had won the first two games of the series by a combined score of 10-2.
Marc Rzepczynski (0-1) surrendered Votto's double in the ninth and took the loss. Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia gave up 11 hits and three runs in 4 2/3 innings for St. Louis. Garcia also singled and scored a run.
The Cards were 10-5 against the Cubs last season.