Cards look to regain winning ways vs. Cubs

After a 1-5 road trip, the St. Louis Cardinals return home to face their old rivals from Chicago this weekend.

The St. Louis Cardinals expect to have Matt Holliday back at full strength Friday night after he was held out of the starting lineup the previous game with a thigh contusion.

It's not anticipated Ryan Dempster will be making too many more starts for the Chicago Cubs.

Amid trade rumors, Dempster takes the mound looking to extend a franchise-record 33-inning scoreless streak when the Cubs open a three-game road series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Dempster's trade value couldn't be higher, making this the perfect time for Chicago to deal the right-hander, who has won five straight starts without allowing a run.

"Nothing imminent, not that I know of,'' said Dempster, who can veto any deal. "I'm sure if they have something they'll come to me. But right now I'm just worried about trying to get ready for tomorrow's game."

Opponents are hitting .171 off Dempster during that span - which matches the team record for scoreless innings set by Ken Holtzman in 1969.

''I know I haven't given up a run in five starts,'' he said. ''I'm not naive. Like I said when I had a no-hitter going before, I know that I have a no-hitter going. I know that I have it. I'm just trying to keep it going, for sure. When you don't give up any runs, you win games. So I like that.''

Dempster (5-3, 1.86 ERA) gave up four hits in six innings of a 4-1 victory over Arizona on Saturday.

While Chicago mulls over potential deals for several players as it looks to the future, the Cardinals (47-45) are still focused on this year.

They lost the final two games of a three-game series at Milwaukee this week, falling 4-3 Wednesday. Adam Wainwright allowed four runs - one earned - and St. Louis went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position.

Holliday struck out as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning with runners on first and second and one out.

The Cardinals' No. 3 hitter was out of the starting lineup one day after being hit by a pitch. He came in batting .317 during a 15-game hitting streak.

A lack of clutch hitting has been partly to blame for St. Louis' 1-5 record since the All-Star break. The Cardinals have scored 15 runs in those games while hitting .157 (8 for 51) with runners in scoring position.

"There's no doubt in my mind that we can play better ball than we are and that we have," Wainwright said. "We've proven that time and time again. We can't live on last year."

The Cardinals will turn to Kyle Lohse (9-2, 2.80) as he tries to join teammate Lance Lynn with 10 wins.

Lohse continued his outstanding season with another strong outing Saturday, yielding two runs and eight hits over six innings of a 3-2, 10-inning loss at Cincinnati. He is 3-0 with a 2.34 ERA in his last five starts.

The right-hander, though, struggled against the Cubs (38-53) on May 15, allowing five runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings, but escaped without a decision after the Cardinals won 7-6.

Chicago has been a much more formidable opponent lately, winning 14 of 19 to escape the NL Central basement.

Alfonso Soriano homered and Reed Johnson drove in two runs in support of Paul Maholm, who pitched eight innings in the Cubs' 4-2 victory over Miami on Thursday.

"This team is obviously pretty good," Johnson, who also made a diving catch in the eighth, told the Cubs' official website. "We've played some tough games and had some good results of late, so hopefully it shows we're not as far away as we thought we were."

St. Louis has won 10 of 14 at home against Chicago.

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