Garcia, Cardinals open series with Cubs

It's not too late for the Cardinals to turn things around and get back into the National League Central race. Another strong outing from Jaime Garcia against the Cubs would be a great start.

Garcia looks for his third victory in as many meetings this season with Chicago, which hosts St. Louis for three straight starting today at Wrigley Field.

The left-hander has pitched to a 6.00 earned run average while going 0-2 over his past four starts, but has dominated the Cubs in 2011. Garcia has held them to just two runs over 15 combined innings, giving him a lifetime ERA of 1.64 in four games versus Chicago.

The Cardinals will hope the 25-year-old can find that success tonight after Garcia was reached for five runs on six hits and four walks over five innings of a loss to the Rockies on Saturday. He fell to 10-6 on the season with a 3.42 ERA.

"The way things turned out wasn't good for him. ... It was just a tough night out there for him. And our bats didn't help things at all," manager Tony La Russa said following the 6-1 defeat.

Garcia isn't alone in his success versus the Cubs this year. St. Louis has won seven of its nine games against the division rivals this year, taking two of three in Chicago on May 10-12.

The Cardinals are 4-5 since a four-game win streak from Aug. 4-7, but thanks to a hot streak by the Brewers, St. Louis has fallen 6 1/2 games behind first- place Milwaukee in the NL Central. The Cards avoided a three-game sweep at the hands of the Pirates on Wednesday with a much-needed 7-2 win.

La Russa opted to keep Lance Berkman out of the starting lineup to give the veteran a bit of rest and it paid off after his replacement, Allen Craig, had four hits and two homers in the triumph. Craig ended with three RBI.

"I had to get him into the lineup. It's hard to but it's the perfect time," said La Russa. "I just moved on a hunch, gave Lance two days off [including Thursday's off day]. We needed some punch, and now we're healthy and hitting."

Kyle Lohse worked seven innings for the win, allowing five hits and two runs with seven strikeouts.

Despite being well behind in the playoff race, the Cubs have played solid ball as of late with a victory in 12 of 17 games. They are coming off a loss to the Astros on Wednesday, a 4-3 defeat despite a two-run homer from Aramis Ramirez and a solo shot by Geovany Soto.

Casey Coleman started in place of the suspended Carlos Zambrano and was pegged with the loss after giving up four runs on 10 hits in just 3 2/3 innings.

"I need to show people that I can go out there and compete. When the league sees you a little bit they are going to make adjustments, so now it's my turn to make some adjustments and start pitching better," Coleman said.

Randy Wells appears to have made some adjustments as of late, winning both of his past two decisions. That includes a victory in Atlanta on Saturday even though he lasted just five innings. The right-hander was charged with two runs on eight hits and no walks in his shortest outing in six starts, claiming an 8-4 decision.

"To be able to go against a great lineup like that, I pretty much had to battle every pitch, every inning," Wells said. "It's nice to be able to sneak away with a win."

The 28-year-old evened his season record at 4-4 with a 5.90 ERA in 15 starts and that includes a no-decision against the Cards on June 4. He allowed four runs on three hits and a walk over 5 2/3 innings of that one, giving him career numbers of 2-2 with a 4.40 ERA in this matchup.