CHICAGO -- Even if the weather isn't following suit, the St. Louis Cardinals have been heating up of late.
The Cardinals have won five straight games heading into Wednesday's game against the rival Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Friendly Confines haven't been so congenial to the Cardinals of late, They lost nine of 10 games in Chicago last season but they captured their first Wrigley victory of the young season in a 5-3 victory on Tuesday.
The win improved St. Louis to 8-3 on the road this season. But considering the frustrations the Cardinals experienced here a year ago, extending their win streak on Chicago's North Side Tuesday was a welcomed sight.
But in order to keep moving things in the right direction, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny switched up his original pitching plan. Rather than starting Michael Wacha, who has struggled to a 1-4 mark in nine career starts at Wrigley, Matheny will turn the ball over to Luke Weaver, who has been St. Louis' most consistent starter this season.
Weaver (2-0, 2.08 ERA) will make his third start and has yet to allow more than five hits or two earned runs in any of his starts. He has struck out seven in each of his last two outings. Weaver has, however, struggled in his two career starts against the Cubs, against whom he is 0-1 with a 12.86 ERA.
Still, Matheny told reporters on Tuesday that he would rather go with Weaver than put Wacha in a difficult spot in a place he has traditionally struggled. Wacha will instead pitch on Friday against Cincinnati with two extra days rest, Matheny said.
"We don't deny that this has been a tough place for Michael to pitch in the past," Matheny told reporters, according to MLB.com. "We had opportunities to split guys up, give them plenty of rest. We like how we split a couple guys up with similar stuff."
Starting pitching -- no matter the venue -- has been an issue for the Cubs, who again dropped under .500 (7-8) with Tuesday's loss.
Tyler Chatwood walked seven over just 4 2/3 innings while laboring over 97 pitches. Chatwood also surrendered two earned runs and continued what's been already become a disturbing trend for Chicago.
Jon Lester (1-0, 4.40) hopes to change things on Wednesday although the Cubs have gotten mixed reviews from the veteran lefty this season. Lester scattered seven hits and allowed four earned runs in his only start at Wrigley this year. In 14 career starts against St. Louis, Lester is 5-4 with a 2.30 ERA.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer told reporters on Tuesday that he expects Chicago's starters to warm up once the weather cooperates. But more wintery weather is expected in Chicago on Wednesday, which Hoyer acknowledges isn't ideal conditions for pitchers to find a groove in.
Until then, Hoyer will reserve judgment.
"We have to wait until we're playing in better (weather) conditions," Hoyer said, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Regardless of what type of conditions the Cubs find themselves in, Hoyer told reporters that at some point, the bullpen can't be taxed as heavily as it has been so far this season.
"To be effective and stay healthy long-term, we have to get long starts," Hoyer said, according to the Tribune.