The Cubs took a resounding victory in the series opener, but the Cardinals have beaten division rivals in each of their first two series this season. St. Louis went 44-35 against National League Central opponents last season, and 27 of its first 28 games this year will be against Central teams.
"You set that bar," said manager Mike Matheny of team expectations, "and then you know the rest of the season what you should be aiming for and not to settle for anything less."
Chicago dropped its first two series -- one to Washington and one to Milwaukee -- but it blitzed St. Louis for eight runs in the first three innings Friday. Veteran Chris Volstad will start for the Cubs on Saturday, and he'll be matched against ex-reliever Lance Lynn.
The Cardinals hope to get Lance Berkman back from a calf injury Saturday, potentially igniting an offense that answered back with five runs in Friday's loss. Chicago swingman Rodrigo Lopez said that the Cubs don't miss Albert Pujols after his free-agency signing with the Angels.
"It's different, but those guys -- [Matt] Holliday, [David] Freese -- are good. And Freese is getting better all the time," Lopez said of the Cardinals. "Not having Pujols protecting Holliday and Berkman, it changes your way to pitch. Having Pujols at any time, especially with runners in scoring position, makes you work a little more. Without Pujols' protection, we can be more aggressive."
Lynn pitched into the seventh inning and allowed just one run in his season debut -- striking out eight batters and walking one -- and Matheny thinks he's ready to make a leap this year.
"I just think the confidence that all these guys took out of the postseason ... it's not going to get any more intense than the World Series," he said. "I think those guys have all taken that into their game."
Cubs: LaHair coming out swinging
The Cubs have gotten some early production out of first baseman Bryan LaHair, who has hit safely in all five of his starts this season. LaHair punched his first career grand slam in the third inning of Friday's series opener, and four of his first seven hits this season have gone for extra bases.
LaHair also struck out three times on Friday, giving him seven in his last three games and nine in his first 20 at-bats. Last year, LaHair struck out 18 times in his first 59 at-bats with the Cubs.
Cardinals: Lynn enjoys latest challenge in rotation
Lynn, the 39th overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, started throughout his Minor League apprenticeship but slipped into a relief role with the Cardinals last season. Lynn posted a 3.12 ERA and even made two spot starts, but he's looking forward to starting on a regular basis.
"Relieving was fun, and I enjoyed it because I got to pitch in a lot of big situations in big games," said Lynn of getting his feet wet as a reliever. "I see this as a new challenge, and I just have to keep preparing myself in between starts and do what I can do to keep moving forward."
The Cardinals are one game behind last year's pace, but their 5-1 start in their first six road games was their best jaunt since another 5-1 start in 1931.
St. Louis took 10 of 15 games from the Cubs last year, including a 7-2 record at Busch Stadium.
Chicago has led in the seventh inning in six of its first eight games. The Cubs are 1-3 in games decided by three or fewer runs this year.