Cardinals-Cubs Preview

Thanks in part to a strong stretch by their rotation, the St. Louis Cardinals are closing in on a second straight NL Central title.

Red-hot Shelby Miller looks to continue that success Tuesday night, though runs may come at a premium against Kyle Hendricks and the last-place Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

The Cardinals (88-69), who have secured a fourth straight playoff berth and have five games left, maintained a 2 1/2-game division lead over Pittsburgh with Monday's 8-0 win in the series opener. The Pirates, who have six contests remaining, won earlier at Atlanta.

Adam Wainwright became the latest to shine on the mound, allowing three hits over seven innings en route to a career high-tying 20th victory. He also matched the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw for the most wins in the majors.

"It's a tremendous honor, obviously," Wainwright said. "But more important, it's a big win for our team."

St. Louis starters have posted a 1.59 ERA over the past 11 games and the Cardinals have won eight of 10. Miller (10-9, 3.68 ERA) has limited opponents to one earned run or less while working at least six innings in his previous four - all St. Louis wins.

The right-hander is 2-0 with an 0.69 ERA during that span after allowing one earned run over six innings in Thursday's 3-2, 13-inning home win over Milwaukee. He was hit in the right shin before exiting, but is expected to be fine for this outing.

"We've been very clear from the expectation at the beginning of the season that we're only going to be as good as our starting pitching is going to be," manager Mike Matheny told MLB's official website following that performance.

Miller hasn't earned a decision despite pitching well in two meetings with the Cubs this season. He gave up two runs and three hits over 5 2-3 innings in a 6-3 road win July 26 before surrendering two runs over seven in a 7-2 home loss Aug. 29.

Rookie Jorge Soler is 2 for 2 with a homer when facing Miller, but Arismendy Alcantara, Welington Castillo and Chris Coghlan are a combined 0 for 16 this season.

The Cubs (69-88) will try to avoid their fifth loss in six games by giving the ball to Hendricks (7-2, 2.28). Only Kershaw (1.80) and San Diego's Andrew Cashner (2.21) have lower ERAs among NL starters who have thrown at least 75 innings.

The rookie right-hander allowed more than two runs for the first time since his debut in a loss at Toronto on Sept. 10, but bounced back by holding Cincinnati to one run over seven innings in Wednesday's 3-1 home win.

Hendricks has been particularly good at home, going 4-1 with a 1.53 ERA in six starts.

"I just feel comfortable here, I guess, and in front of the home fans," he said.

His lone defeat at Wrigley came against the Cardinals on July 27, when he gave up one run over 6 1-3 innings in a 1-0 defeat. He did not get a decision when he opposed Miller in late August, allowing two runs over six innings.

Matt Holliday is 3 for 6 with a home run when facing Hendricks, while Matt Carpenter and Jhonny Peralta are both 3 for 6.

Holliday had two hits and an RBI Monday, giving him a .358 average over his last 14 games. Matt Adams and Carpenter went a combined 3 for 9 with two RBIs after each missed two games with a stomach virus.

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