One of baseball’s best rivalries will resume on Thursday night at Wrigley Field. The Chicago Cubs will play host to the St. Louis Cardinals in game one of a long five game series on Thursday. The Cubs and Cards are the only two teams playing on Thursday night, as the rest of the league will get one extra day of rest.

The Chicago Cubs have taken over first place in the National League Central after sweeping the Padres before the break. The St. Louis Cardinals sit in third place in the division, and trail the Cubs by 7.5 games entering this series. The Chicago Cubs are -152 over the St. Louis Cardinals on Thursday night in National League action.

Hendricks Must Pitch Better For Cubs

The Cubs were able to overcome inconsistent starting pitching in the first half of the season. The Cubs need better outings from all of their starting pitchers, but especially Kyle Hendricks. Hendricks will open up the second half for the Cubs, and comes in with a 6-8 record. Hendricks has struggled with fastball command this season, and the Cubs need the young right hander to return to his 2017 form.

All-Star second baseman, Javier Baez, was the offensive star for the Cubs in the first half of the season. Baez has cut down on his strikeouts and leads the team with 19 home runs and 72 runs batted in. The Cubs will look for Baez’s energy to carry them in the first game of the second half of the season.

Cardinals Offense Still MIA

The St. Louis Cardinals have not gotten consistent offense in 2018, and it’s the main reason that they find themselves in third place. The Cardinals come in ranked 19th in baseball in total runs scored, and ranked 17th in team batting average. St. Louis needs more production from veterans Dexter Fowler and Tommy Pham if they are going to make a run in the second half of the season.

The Cardinals will begin the second half of the season under interim manager, Mike Shildt. Former Cardinals manager, Mike Matheny, was fired on Saturday after leading the team to a 47-46, but amidst a season full of controversy. The Cardinals are in danger of missing the playoffs for a third straight year, but have a great chance to make up ground if they can win games against the Cubs this weekend.

Cubs Open Second Half With “W”

The Cardinals have too much talent to continue to play inconsistent baseball. Perhaps a new manager will bring a breath of fresh air to a veteran ballclub, and the Cardinals will find a way to get back into the playoff race. St. Louis will need a great start from ace, Carlos Martinez, on Thursday night.

The Chicago Cubs have been the best second half team in baseball since Joe Maddon began to manage in 2015. The Cubs offense is capable of wearing down an opponent, and they have had recent success against Martinez. Look for Hendricks to give the Cubs a quality start, and the Chicago batters to pound the baseball. Bet on the Chicago Cubs to win the first of a five game series on Thursday over the Cardinals.

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