The Cubs decided to add Jake Arrieta, acquired in a midseason trade, to their rotation for the final six weeks of the season so that he could work with pitching coach Chris Bosio. He'll get his first chance to do so Friday against the Cardinals.
Sent to Triple-A Iowa upon being picked up from the Orioles in the Scott Feldman deal, Arrieta will be recalled and sent to the mound to face the Cardinals at Wrigley Field, where the Cubs have struggled to provide their pitchers with any sort of run support recently.
The Cubs have been shut out in four of their last five home games, two at the hands of the Dodgers and two more against the Reds. They'll look to snap out of that funk against Jake Westbrook and a Cardinals team right in the middle of a three-team race atop the National League Central.
"We've got a lot of teams coming up and we want to spoil some of their hopes of going to the playoffs and make it interesting," said Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo. "We could be a big part of that and make this division interesting, especially how many times we play these teams coming up."
The Cardinals took two of three from first-place Pittsburgh the last three days, and the series finale was a 6-5 victory in 12 innings. St. Louis went 4-6 on its 10-game homestand but closed to within two games of the Pirates by virtue of the series victory.
Chicago did manage to take two of three when these clubs met last weekend, rallying for a 6-5 comeback victory Saturday after winning, 3-0, on Friday.
"That was a great win for our offense," said Carlos Villanueva, moved to the bullpen to make room for Arrieta in the rotation. "They see it. It builds confidence and can only help us as a team."
But they could also use a strong outing from Arrieta, the 27-year-old right-hander who's made one start for the Cubs, the second game of a July 30 doubleheader against the Brewers. Arrieta gave up only one run on two hits and three walks over six innings in that outing, and he put up encouraging numbers for Iowa: 2-2 with a 3.56 ERA in seven starts, plus 39 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings.
Westbrook, meanwhile, has had his fair share of success against the Cubs this season, going 1-1 with a 2.79 ERA in 19 1/3 innings over three starts. His last time out was an emergency relief appearance Wednesday, when he surrendered nine runs on 13 hits in 4 2/3 innings. It was Westbrook's first regular-season relief appearance since 2004.
"Three days of rest is sufficient for most people," Westbrook said. "You want to come in and do what you can. The bottom line is I didn't do that. I just didn't pitch very well, and that hurt us."
Friday's series opener will also mark the Major League debut of highly touted Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong, the organization's fourth-best prospect. Wong, who had a slash line of .303/.369/.466, with 21 doubles, eight triples, 10 homers, 45 RBIs and 68 runs scored in his first year at Triple-A, will bat sixth Friday. He was drafted No. 22 overall in 2011.
Cardinals: Carpenter back on a tear
Matt Carpenter had a monster game on Thursday, and fittingly he scored the winning run. Carpenter went 4-for-5 with a double and a triple and walked in the 12th inning before scoring on a Matt Holliday single. Carpenter hit .413 (19-for-41) on the 10-game homestand following a 4-for-40 road trip.
How does he know when he's heating up again after going into a funk?
"When I don't feel good, I feel like my at-bats are quicker, putting balls into play," he said. "When I get back into that kind of feel, like [Wednesday] I had a couple at-bats that I got deep and ended up with a couple two-strike hits. That's what I do, so when I'm doing that I know that's where I need to be."
Cubs: Villanueva back in the 'pen
With Arrieta joining the rotation the rest of the way, the Cubs opted to send Villanueva to the bullpen. They could've bumped Chris Rusin from the rotation, but he's 2-2 with a 3.06 ERA this season.
Villanueva was in the rotation to start the season, but found himself in the bullpen when Matt Garza came off the disabled list. Villanueva gave up three runs (two earned) and struck out three in two innings of work Wednesday.
"Not that Villanueva was doing horrible, but Rusin was doing really, really well, and it was hard to bump a guy who's given up one run or no runs every outing since he's been here," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "'Villa' has done it before. Losing [Matt] Guerrier, he can be that guy in the sixth or seventh inning when we're winning and get people out."
• Guerrier is awaiting a second opinion regarding his season-ending elbow injury. Cubs doctors have told him he has a tear on his pronator teres muscle of his right elbow, which requires surgery and rehab for about six to eight months.
• With the Cubs' rotation shuffled up, Travis Wood will start Saturday and Edwin Jackson on Sunday.
• The Cardinals currently lead the season series between the two NL Central rivals, 7-6.
Holliday had two hits on Thursday and will carry a 12-game hitting streak into this series.