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Jun 16, 2024 7:26 am

Cubs, Cardinals jockey for position in NL Central

cubs cardinals

Ian Happ will try to build on what he hopes was a slump-busting performance when the host Chicago Cubs wrap up a three-game set with the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday afternoon.

Happ blasted a three-run homer on Saturday, going 2-for-3 with a walk to lead Chicago to a 5-1 victory over St. Louis. The Cardinals saw their three-game winning streak end just one day after blanking the Cubs 3-0 in the series opener.

Entering Saturday, Happ had gone just 1-for-24 (.042) over his past seven games. He struck out nine times during that stretch.

“Just keeping with the process,” Happ told Fox Sports. “It’s a long season. The worst thing you can do when you’re struggling is to get down on yourself and try to change a bunch of stuff. It’s all about belief and confidence and just getting through the tough stretches.”

Jameson Taillon (3-2, 3.09 ERA) will rely on Happ and the rest of Chicago’s offense to help him get his first win in over a month.

Taillon hasn’t factored into a decision in each of his past four starts, and he last won a game on May 4 — 6-5 against the Milwaukee Brewers.

In his most recent outing, Taillon scattered four hits across six scoreless innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday — a game the Cubs lost 5-2. He is 5-1 with a 3.39 ERA in 13 career starts vs. St. Louis.

The Cardinals will counter on Sunday with fellow right-hander Miles Mikolas (4-6, 4.85 ERA), who is coming off his best outing of the season. Facing the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday, Mikolas flirted with a no-hitter.

Bryan Reynolds tripled to open the seventh, but Mikolas stranded him at third before handing the ball to JoJo Romero ahead of the eighth. Reynolds’ triple was the only hit Mikolas gave up in his seven shutout innings, but he still had to settle for a no-decision. The Pirates won 2-1.

“I feel like that might be the best I’ve felt,” Mikolas said. “Just being comfortable with all my breaking balls, my changeup, the sinker and the four-seamer.”

In 20 career appearances (18 starts) against the Cubs, Mikolas is 5-4 with a 2.69 ERA.

Sunday will mark the fifth meeting of the year between the Cardinals and Cubs, with St. Louis currently holding a 3-1 advantage in the season series. With the All-Star Game one month away, both teams have been jockeying for position in what has turned into a tight National League Central race.

The second-place Cardinals are 6 1/2 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers, and the other three teams in the division are within 1 1/2 games of St. Louis. The Cubs are 7 1/2 games removed from the top spot in the Central, but they hope a win such as Saturday’s helps them build momentum as the second half of the season approaches.

“Absolutely, games like this are gonna help,” Chicago catcher Yan Gomes said. “I feel like there’s some guys trying to put better (at-bats) together and moving guys over, and the more and more we put guys on third with chances to score with no outs or one outs or even two outs, we’re gonna come through.”

–Field Level Media

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