While Cardinals-Reds has stolen some of its thunder in recent years, Cardinals-Cubs remains one of the top rivalries in baseball, and it's set to kick off Monday at Busch Stadium.
The Cardinals will trot out rookie Shelby Miller to start the series opener. Miller is 7-4 on the season with a 2.21 ERA, good for fifth best in the National League.
"I'm excited to get back home and start," Miller said. "The first thing I want to do is go out there and get a win."
Miller has at least one admirer in Chicago in Cubs manager Dale Sveum, who said he is impressed with the rate at which the Cardinals churn out top pitching talent.
"We've talked about it the last couple years, of how you have to build and find those guys and develop them," Sveum said. "It's not an easy process. You get lucky sometimes. You find the 20th-round Draft pick that all of a sudden develops, and maybe his character, the mental side of it got him over the hump to become a frontline starter in the big leagues."
Miller is one of three rookies to start for the Cardinals this season and is among 10 first-year hurlers to have made an appearance on the big league roster. The Cardinals have the best record in baseball, and entering Sunday's game against the Marlins, the rotation boasted the best ERA in the Majors at 3.23.
"Everybody is up here for a reason, and everybody has talent," Miller said. "I'm fortunate to be with a good ballclub, and we're winning games. I've had a good season, but I try to stay humble about it and keep working hard to win games for this team."
Travis Wood will get the start opposite Miller. Wood is 5-5 with a 2.65 ERA on the year. His last outing against the Cardinals was a successful one on May 7, when he gave up one run on six hits through 6 2/3 innings. The Cubs took a 3-2 victory, splitting a two-game series at Wrigley Field.
Cubs: Offense showing signs of life
A weekend series with the struggling Mets may turn out to be just what Anthony Rizzo and the Cubs lineup needed to get into a rhythm at the plate.
Sveum moved Rizzo from third to fifth in the lineup and he went 3-for-4 on Friday, and then 1-for-2 with three walks -- two intentional -- on Saturday as the Cubs combined to tally 20 hits and 11 runs in the first two contests against the Mets. Rizzo turned in a 0-for-4 performance Sunday, but Chicago still came away with a victory.
"I think we're giving ourselves more opportunities to score runs," Rizzo said. "We had a lot of guys on base yesterday. If you keep giving yourself opportunities, eventually you're going to come through."
Cardinals: Beltran knocks 350th career homer
Amid the Cardinals' 13-run outburst Saturday, Carlos Beltran hit his 350th career home run, his second of the game. Beltran, who also tripled in the eighth, went 3-for-6 with two RBIs in his second multihomer game of the season.
It marked the 11th time the switch-hitter went deep from both sides of the plate in the same game.
"I feel great and I have to thank God for that," Beltran said. "I've been healthy and working hard. Good things are happening for me and the team. I'm just happy with where we are right now."
Entering Monday's series opener with the Cubs, Beltran leads the Cardinals in home runs (16), ranks second in RBIs (44) and fifth in batting average (.306).
• The Cardinals are in the midst of 10 games against the Mets, Marlins and Cubs. With all three of those teams operating below .500, it's an opportunity for St. Louis to build some separation in front of the Reds and Pirates in the tough NL Central. However, the Cardinals dropped two of three to the Marlins, the team with the worst record in baseball, after falling once to the Mets. They need to win three of four games against Chicago to come out above .500 over the stretch.
• The Cubs won two of three against the Mets as they work their way out of the NL Central cellar, sitting a half-game ahead of the Brewers for fourth. They trail the Cardinals by 15 games.