Inside The Ivy: Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals

ST. LOUIS, Mo. - The last time the Cubs (13-8) faced the hated St. Louis Cardinals (11-11) was back in early September of last year, when they took four of five games in one of the most memorable series of recent years. Despite that, the Cubs only managed a 2-5 record at Busch Stadium in 2003.

The Cubs are coming off an uplifting 4-3 win in Arizona to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands of the suddenly hot Diamondbacks. Meanwhile, the Cardinals were able to overcome Jason Isringhausen's blown save in the ninth inning Thursday to down the Philadelphia Phillies, 5-4, in 13 innings. The Redbirds looked extremely fatigued as extra innings wore on, though, and used plenty of pitchers in relief. That may reflect on their performance in game one against Cubs ace Kerry Wood Friday.

St. Louis' powerful lineup is causing nightmares for NL pitchers. The Cardinals offense ranks first in the National League. Third baseman Scott Rolen is putting up remarkable numbers and leads the league with 27 RBIs in only 22 games. Superstar Albert Pujols is only 6-for-24 in his last six games, but is still hitting over .300 for the year at Busch Stadium. Pujols leads the Cardinals in runs scored, with 20 in 22 games.

Here is a look at the pitching matchup's in the series:

Friday, April 30, 7:10 CDT: Kerry Wood (3-1, 2.60 ERA) vs. Woody Williams (0-2, 6.53 ERA) - WGN

Kerry Wood was tremendous in his last start on Saturday against the New York Mets at Wrigley Field, allowing no runs with nine strikeouts in seven innings to pick up the victory. The 26-year-old Wood is currently appealing a five-game suspension, which will allow him to pitch in the Cubs' most pivotal series to date on the season.

Woody Williams has struggled heavily for most of this season. However, Williams is coming off of a solid start at Milwaukee, where he allowed only two earned runs in six innings despite being outpitched by rookie right-hander Chris Saenz in his major league debut. In 2003, Williams went 2-2 with a 3.79 ERA against the Cubs.

Saturday, May 1, 6:10 CDT: Matt Clement (3-1, 2.22 ERA) vs. Jeff Suppan (2-2, 3.65 ERA) - Fox Sports Net Chicago

Matt Clement was simply overwhelming his last time out on Sunday against the Mets, flirting with a no-hitter on a day where winds were gusting out at 30 MPH. Clement allowed only one run on two hits, and struck out a whopping 13 in eight masterful innings to get his third straight win. After a rough 2004 debut at Great American Ball Park back on April 8, Clement has allowed only two runs in 20.1 innings since for an ERA of 0.89.

Jeff Suppan has proved to be a solid addition to the Cardinals rotation so far in 2004. The 29-year-old right-hander is coming off a tremendous start at Milwaukee, where he allowed one run on just three hits in 7.2 innings to get a win.

Sunday, May 2, 1:10 CT: Carlos Zambrano (2-1, 3.55 ERA) vs. Matt Morris (3-2, 4.50 ERA) - WGN

After three brilliant starts, Carlos Zambrano proved he is still human Monday night in Arizona. Zambrano allowed seven runs and 10 hits in just 4 1/3 innings en route to his first loss of the year.

Going for the Cardinals will be ace starter and Cub-killer Matt Morris. The Phillies got five runs in six innings off Morris in his last start. Morris has struck out 16 and walked 13 this season.

Monday, May 3, 1:10 CDT: Sergio Mitre (1-1, 4.43 ERA) vs. Jason Marquis (1-1, 3.73 ERA) - Fox Sports Net Chicago

Sergio Mitre had his roughest start of the season in his last outing on Tuesday at Bank One Ballpark. Mitre allowed five runs in just 3.2 innings and did not have great command of his breaking ball, either. This will be his first career outing against the Cardinals, so it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure.

Jason Marquis was acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the off-season along with left-handed specialist Ray King and right-handed pitching prospect Adam Wainwright for OF J.D. Drew and utility man Eli Marrero. Marquis has always had tremendous talent, including a fastball that touches 96 MPH on occasion, but often struggles with his command. The Cubs would be wise to stay patient with the 25-year-old.

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