ST. LOUIS -- Last September, the last time the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals played, it was the beginning of the end of St. Louis' NL Central hopes. The Cubs took four of five in Chicago en route to the championship while the Cardinals straggled in third.
Still, the Cardinals say there won't be extra motivation for the four-game series in St. Louis that starts today. Catcher Mike Matheny said the team, which is 4-9 at home, just needs victories period.
"Look at those five games last year -- we were both in the race and it was high intensity, high emotion, some stuff going on," Matheny said. "But hey, that's baseball. It's a new year and we've got to start winning games, and it doesn't matter against who."
The Cardinals are 11-11, thanks to a 7-2 road record, and trail the first-place Cubs (13-8) by 2 1/2 games. They barely averted being swept at home for the second time this season with a 5-4, 13-inning victory Thursday over Philadelphia.
"Oh gosh, I'm exhausted right now," Jim Edmonds said after hitting the game-winning home run off Amaury Telemaco. "It's going to be exciting, I guess. The Cubs are coming to town for four days, a big weekend.
"But when you look at Kerry Wood and Zambrano and those guys, that's not going to be fun. We're going to have our 'A' game ready and battle."
Woody Williams (0-2) opposes Wood (3-1) in the opener on Friday. The only Cubs starter the Cardinals will miss is Greg Maddux, while Chris Carpenter is the only Cardinals starter who won't make an appearance in the series.
Before the season, the Cardinals were picked by most to finish third in the Central behind Chicago and Houston. They added confidence with a recent sweep at Houston, returning the favor after the Astros swept them at home.
"We need to squeak out a few," Cards closer Jason Isringhausen said. "We need to play them tough like we did with Houston. We know who's in our division, we know who we're chasing, so we've got to play good baseball these next few days."