The Cubs and Cardinals have been rivals for years. They've played each other often and evenly -- Chicago owns a 1,173-1,114 edge since 1892 -- and there's always a lot of red throughout Wrigley Field when the Cardinals come to Chicago.
But before the first meeting between the two teams Tuesday at Wrigley Field -- a 2-1 Cubs win -- the two managers weren't spewing bulletin board material each other's way.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, when asked if the Cubs could be a force because of the size of their market, said he doesn't view Chicago any other way -- even with the Cubs' last-place standing in the National League Central.
"I know right now they're a force. Any time we come in here, it's tough," Matheny said. "This team plays us tough any time we come into Wrigley. There's a lot of history and tradition between the two, and I can't help but understand the success that [Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein] and the front office has had and know that they are some smart guys doing some things to push this organization forward. There's no question about that."
Cubs manager Dale Sveum sees a lot of similarities between the two teams. And he's not entirely off base.
The Cardinals' rotation (3.08 ERA) is the best in the game this season, while the Cubs' 3.77 mark is in the top 11.
But then there's the offense, specifically in clutch situations.
"The difference is they're hitting .330 with men in scoring position, and we're hitting .180," Sveum said. "They have a nice team. They catch the ball, they have velocity coming out of the bullpen that can change things. They have the best catcher in baseball catching. They do a lot of good things. They've got big guys in the middle of that order.
"The biggest separation is when they get guys on, they get them in. Their numbers with two outs are even more staggering."
Cardinals: Westbrook on hill after milestone
Right-hander Jake Westbrook, the Major League leader with a 1.07 ERA, takes the mound in Wednesday's two-game series finale looking to continue his dominant early season. The righty wasn't as sharp in his last start at Milwaukee, but the Brewers hit several liners right at the defense, and he came away with his 100th career victory.
"Made some mistakes and got away with some things," he said.
Westbrook has yet to allow a home run in 33 2/3 innings this season.
• Three Cardinals carry solid hitting streaks into Wednesday's game: first baseman Allen Craig has a six-game hitting streak (.385 during that stretch), center fielder Jon Jay has a five-gamer (.529) and catcher Yadier Molina has hit in seven straight (.452).
Cubs: Matheny knows closer woes
The back end of the Cubs' bullpen has struggled all season, and Matheny certainly knows how Sveum must be feeling. The Cardinals had similar issues in April but seemingly found an answer with Edward Mujica.
"We were looking to answer the same question the first couple of weeks when [Mitchell] Boggs was having trouble and we lost [Jason] Motte. We gave some guys different trials," Matheny said. "But fortunately one guy stepped up, and that's usually what it comes down to -- somebody taking advantage of the opportunity. Right now, Mujica is doing a great job with it."
The Cubs are hoping right-hander Kevin Gregg is their Mujica. Gregg has tossed eight straight scoreless outings and is a perfect 5-for-5 in save opportunities since joining the Cubs.
• Right-hander Carlos Villanueva gets the start Wednesday looking to rebound from two subpar outings in which he allowed four runs and took the loss in each. He lasted only 5 2/3 innings his last time out against the Reds.
• On Wednesday, Cubs fans are invited to participate in Chicago Cubs Charities "Pink Out," presented by Advocate Health Care. Each fan who buys a bleacher ticket will receive a Cubs Charities "Pink Out" hat to help promote and support breast cancer awareness. The wives of Cubs coaches and players will be handing them out at the entrance gates, and fans throughout the ballpark are encouraged to wear pink.
Proceeds from a Cubs Charities 50/50 Raffle will benefit mammograms for under-insured or uninsured women through Advocate Healthcare.
• Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo is hitting .400 with seven doubles, three homers and 11 RBIs in his last 12 games.
• With 375 home runs, Cubs left fielder Alfonso Soriano is one shy of tying Carlton Fisk for 69th on the all-time list. Norm Cash and Jeff Kent, each with 377, are next.