While the Chicago Cubs believe they're ready to seriously contend for an NL Central title, the St. Louis Cardinals still appear poised to remain the class of the division.
After the Cardinals ruined the Cubs' highly anticipated season opener, the rivals resume their rain-shortened series Wednesday at Wrigley Field.
Though new Chicago manager Joe Maddon was in the third base dugout, new ace Jon Lester was on the mound and a large videoboard towered over Wrigley's vacant left field bleachers for the first time, it was the Cardinals who opened with a 3-0 victory Sunday.
Adam Wainwright allowed all five Cubs hits and struck out six without a walk over six innings, Matt Holliday had two hits with two RBIs and Jason Heyward recorded three hits in his St. Louis debut to help the two-time defending Central champions get off to a positive start.
''A shutout win is a great way to do it,'' manager Mike Matheny said.
Maddon, meanwhile, doesn't seem too concern that his new club went 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position and struck out 12 times, or that Lester yielded all three runs and eight hits over 4 1-3 innings.
"If you're going to get to the playoffs and win the World Series, you have to beat some good folks," Maddon told MLB's official website. "We're not going to shy away from anybody. Bring 'em on."
After an off day Monday, this series was scheduled to resume Tuesday night but that game was postponed due to a forecast of rain and cold weather.
Chicago will try to avoid its fifth loss in seven games to the Cardinals as it opposes Lance Lynn, whose 48 wins over the last three seasons rank among the most in the NL. He finished among the major league leaders with a career-low 2.74 ERA while going 15-10 through 33 starts in 2014.
The right-hander, who dealt with a hip issue during spring training, allowed two runs in six innings while not factoring in the decision of a 5-4 win at Wrigley on May 4 in his only appearance against the Cubs last season.
Chicago counters with Jake Arrieta, who after missing a little more than the first month of the 2014 season with shoulder tightness, went 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA in 25 starts.
"I feel I can pick up where I left off," the right-hander told the Cubs' official website.
Arrieta's been especially tough on the Cardinals while allowing three earned runs, 17 hits and striking out 35 over 29 1-3 innings to go 2-0 in five starts against them.
Leadoff batter Matt Carpenter and Holliday are hitting a combined .425 (17 for 40) in the Cardinals' last five games at Wrigley Field, but are 0 for 23 with eight strikeouts versus Arrieta. Heyward, however, is 2 for 6 with a double against him.
Though Carpenter and Holliday have struggled against Arrieta, Heyward hopes to further benefit from being sandwiched between the two in the St. Louis' order.
''Selfishly, I like the idea of hitting between those two,'' said Heyward, who is 9 for 18 with five doubles in his last four games at Wrigley. ''Holly can do damage and Carp sees so many pitches and has good (at-bats). I'm going to be kind of spoiled hitting there.''
Chicago's Starlin Castro, who went 1 for 4 on Sunday, is 10 for 30 with three doubles and a triple versus Lynn.