National League Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, July 20th (All times eastern)
Chicago Cubs (38-53) at St. Louis Cardinals (47-45), 8:15 p.m.
Probable Starting Pitchers: Chicago - Ryan Dempster (5-3, 1.86) St. Louis - Kyle Lohse (9-2, 2.80)
(Sports Network) - Red-hot veteran Ryan Dempster aims for a sixth consecutive win tonight when his Chicago Cubs open up a three-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
The subject of numerous trade rumors, Dempster, who was winless through his initial nine starts of 2012 despite a solid 2.90 earned run average, has been lights out since - winning all five outings since early June while trimming the ERA to a stingy 1.86.
He's not given up a run in any of the starts since the stretch began, prolonging the streak to 33 complete innings when he blanked Arizona on four hits across six innings of the Cubs' 4-1 win on July 14.
In the five games, Chicago has outscored its opponents, 32-3.
Dempster has allowed 20 hits and struck out 21 batters in the scoreless run, in which he's also beaten Milwaukee, Minnesota, Boston and the New York Mets while sandwiching the All-Star break and a stint on the 15-disabled list.
The former reliever is 8-8 with 15 saves in 48 career meetings with St. Louis.
The Cardinals reply with righty Kyle Lohse, a 33-year-old Californian who's not lost since mid-June. Lohse is 3-0 in his last five starts while pitching at least seven innings in four of the games and allowing three earned runs or less in all five.
He defeated Miami, 3-2, in his final start before the All-Star break on July 7 and has worked once since, getting a no-decision in the Cardinals' 3-2 loss at Cincinnati on July 14 after allowing two runs on eight hits in six innings.
He's 2-4 lifetime against the Cubs.
On Thursday in Chicago, Paul Maholm tossed eight innings of one-run ball to lead the Cubs past the Miami Marlins, 4-2, in the rubber match of a three-game set at Wrigley Field.
Maholm (8-6) scattered five hits and a walk while striking out four to record his fourth straight winning decision.
"You work fast, you mix speeds, you keep the ball down and you put your defense to work and they make plays," Maholm said. "I'm all about trying to get it over with quick."
Carlos Marmol allowed a run in the ninth but still earned his 11th save of the year.
Alfonso Soriano homered and Reed Johnson knocked in a pair of runs for the Cubs, who have won six of their last seven games.
On Wednesday in Milwaukee, Corey Hart hit a two-run single during a four-run first inning and the Brewers held on for a 4-3 victory over the Cardinals.
Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright (7-10) was a hard-luck loser after striking out nine, walking none and giving up just four hits in seven innings. Three of the runs charged to him in a sloppy first inning were unearned.
The teams have split eight games across three series in 2012, with the Cubs winning two of five in St. Louis. The Cardinals won the season series last year and the Cubs won it in 2010.
The Cubs and Cardinals franchises have played 2,158 times since 1901, with Chicago winning 1,100 to St. Louis's 1,058.
07/20 10:23:36 ET