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National League Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, August 31 (All times Eastern)

Chicago Cubs (61-75) at St. Louis Cardinals (72-63) 2:15 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Chicago - Travis Wood (8-11, 4.72) St. Louis - John Lackey (13-8, 3.77)

(SportsNetwork.com) - The St. Louis Cardinals have finally taken offense.

The Cardinals registered their highest run total of the season in winning the second half of a doubleheader on Saturday, and will try to prolong the sudden outburst when they host the Chicago Cubs on Sunday afternoon in the finale of a four-game series at Busch Stadium.

St. Louis had lost four straight games -- and scored just six runs -- before Saturday's nightcap, in which it broke out for 13 runs, scored nine runs in the eighth inning and had hits in six of nine at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Matt Holliday had two home runs and five runs batted in.

It was a nice prelude to an important week for the Cardinals, who are a game behind Milwaukee in the chase for the National League Central title and will host the Pittsburgh Pirates -- whom they lead by a game for the NL's second wild card spot -- for three games starting Monday.

"We really need those big production days and Matt's the guy that can do that," manager Mike Matheny said. "It's nice to see and nice to see him lead like he did."

John Lackey gets the call for Sunday's finale for start No. 6 since he arrived from Boston at the trading deadline. He was a 3-2 winner at Pittsburgh on Monday after allowing one run in seven innings, and has allowed two or fewer earned runs in seven of his last eight appearances.

"I think guys know when we have a pitcher like Lackey on the mound, he's going to keep us in the game," Matheny said.

His only meeting with the Cubs came 10 years ago.

Even with the late Saturday loss, Chicago has won six of its last nine.

Lefty Travis Wood will get the start Sunday after snapping a six-loss skid with six innings of scoreless, two-hit ball in a 3-0 win at Cincinnati on Tuesday.

He's 2-0 with a 4.00 earned run average against the Cardinals in 2014, but has won just once in his last four trips to Busch Stadium while toting a 7.20 ERA.

Chicago will not have the services of first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who's been out since Tuesday with a back problem.

"It's day to day," Rizzo said." But as far as baseball stuff, we'll be done until Monday. I don't want to come back and then miss the rest of the season if I'm really bad. I can wait a couple days to play the rest of the season. This is an important month. The better we do now, the better we go into the offseason, the better we go into spring training, and everyone else feels it."

On Saturday, St. Louis saw seven of its nine starters record an RBI in a 13-2 nightcap rout, with Matt Carpenter scoring three runs in the win.

Marco Gonzales (1-2) recorded his first MLB win after he allowed one run on three hits with five strikeouts over six innings of work. Tsuyoshi Wada (4-2) took the loss, yielding four runs -- three earned -- on five hits and three walks over six innings.

Jorge Soler and Chris Coghlan each had an RBI for the Cubs, who hit three homers in the Game 1 of the doubleheader en route to a 5-1 victory.

08/31 10:24:04 ET