ST. LOUIS — Let’s get this out of the way right at the top:
The Cubs stink.
Or maybe we’re overcorrecting now that the Cubs — who opened the season 25-6 — have veered off course, losing seven of 11 games.
At 29-13, they still have the best record in baseball and the franchise’s best 42-game mark since 1918. Although they’ve lost two straight on the road for the first time all season, they’re still 15-7 away from Wrigley Field.
OK, so they don’t stink. And if they win another series in St. Louis — the Cubs took two of three at Busch Stadium in April — all will look great again.
Monday: John Lackey (4-2, 3.31) vs. Adam Wainwright (4-3, 5.92), 7:15 p.m., CSN+.
Tuesday: Jason Hammel (5-1, 2.31) vs. Michael Wacha (2-4, 4.03), 6:10 p.m., CSN, ESPN.
Wednesday: Jake Arrieta (8-0, 1.29) vs. Carlos Martinez (4-4, 3.56), 12:45 p.m., Ch. 7.
Cubs starting pitchers lasted at least five innings in each of the team’s first 40 games — a truly remarkable achievement — but that streak finally ended with Jon Lester in San Francisco.
This Cardinals series appears to set up well for the Cubs. Combined, Lackey and Hammel allowed a single run over 13 innings in their victories in St. Louis last month. Both Wainwright and Wacha have struggled all season, though Wainwright has come around a bit and — big “and” — happens to be on a 23-inning scoreless streak against the Cubs.
Martinez, probably the Cardinals’ top pitcher, has been less than ace-like. Ace stuff is, of course, a must when opposing Arrieta.
The Cardinals are 5-5 in their last 10 games, 11-9 in their last 20 and 16-14 in their last 30. Maybe this simply is a .500ish kind of team, though fans here sure don’t want to believe that.
Stephen Piscotty is sizzling, batting .380 in May. Matt Carpenter leads the National League with 13 extra-base hits in May. The team’s bats have been far more potent than its arms, producing the second-most home runs in the N.L. and the most extra-base hits. The Cardinals have hit the 10-run mark nine times.
On: the Cubs’ bullpen. It has been a quiet strength of late, with a 0.72 ERA in 25 innings over the last eight games. Only one of 15 inherited base runners has scored in that stretch.
Off: Anthony Rizzo. The big fella is mired in a 1-for-25 slump. The good news is, he has had a lot of success against Wainwright, Martinez and especially Wacha.
On: Ben Zobrist and Dexter Fowler. They rank third and fourth in the major leagues in on-base percentage at .439 and .435, respectively.
Off: early offense. The Cubs are 17-3 when they score first, but only 12-10 when they don’t. They’ve scored first in only three of the last 11 games.
On: Kris Bryant’s road power. He couldn’t buy a long ball away from home in 2015, hitting all but five of his 26 homers at Wrigley. Bryant already has five road homers (and four home ones) this season.
Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg