(Sports Network) - Not since the days of Andre Dawson, Ryne Sandberg and Mark Grace have the Chicago Cubs been able to sweep a three-game series in St. Louis. Tonight they'll try for their first sweep of the Cardinals at Busch Stadium since the 1988 campaign.
It's no surprise the Cubs are in this position with the way they've played this month, going 8-4 in 12 September games. Chicago will also try for its fifth straight win over the NL Central-rival Cardinals after taking the first two installments of this series, including Tuesday's 7-2 victory behind a strong start from Randy Wells in his return home.
"My grandma told me to take it easy on her Cardinals, and I was like, 'What's that all about?'" Wells said on the team's site.
Wells didn't respect his grandmother's wishes and gave up just one run and five hits with five strikeouts over eight innings for the win. Wells even helped his own cause with a pair of hits and two runs batted in for the Cubs, who are 4-1 on a nine-game road trip. Xavier Nady had a big night at the plate with three hits and three RBI, setting the Cubs up for possibly their first sweep in the Gateway City since June 10-12, 1988.
The Cubs hope streaking right-hander Carlos Zambrano can duplicate what Wells did when he takes the mound Wednesday. Zambrano is 5-0 with a 1.60 earned run average in seven starts since returning to the rotation after attending anger- management counseling, and last pitched in Friday's 4-0 win at Milwaukee. He struck out nine batters over 8 2/3 scoreless innings and allowed three hits, improving to 8-6 with a 3.88 ERA in 32 games (16 starts) this season.
Zambrano defeated the Cardinals on August 14 this season and is 11-6 in 28 career games, 25 of which have been starts, against them.
St. Louis remained seven games behind Cincinnati for the top spot in the NL Central after the Reds also lost on Tuesday.
Cardinals co-ace Adam Wainwright failed in his bid to become the National League's first 19-game winner this season and suffered the loss after he allowed five runs on 12 hits with eight strikeouts in eight innings.
"I had very good stuff and located all my pitches," said Wainwright. "They put some good swings on some good pitches -- you've got to tip your cap to them tonight. I didn't make very many bad pitches."
Colby Rasmus homered and Matt Holliday drove in a run for St. Louis, which has dropped six of eight games and played without NL MVP candidate Albert Pujols because of an elbow problem. Pujols, who leads the National League with 39 home runs and 104 RBI, has been bothered by the severely bruised elbow since injuring it while diving for a ball in a series against Pittsburgh in late August. He is day-to-day.
The Cardinals' other staff ace, Chris Carpenter, is set to take the mound Wednesday night in the finale of this series and has lost two of three starts and three of his previous five decisions. Carpenter was hammered for eight runs -- six earned -- and eight hits over five innings in last Friday's 8-6 loss at Atlanta. He even homered in the setback.
Carpenter is now 15-6 with a 3.09 earned run average in 31 starts this season and lost to the Cubs back on August 14. The righty is 10-4 in 29 career starts against Chicago, and owns an 11-3 mark in 17 home starts in 2010.
The Cubs are 7-4 against St. Louis this season.