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08/08/08 8:59 PM ET

Cards seek innings from starters

St. Louis (64-54) at Chicago (70-46), Saturday, 2:55 p.m. CT

CHICAGO -- The Cardinals hope to shore up their sometimes leaky bullpen in part by stabilizing the ninth inning. But help can come in more ways than one, and the relief corps will also benefit if it gets some assistance from the other direction.

That is, the deeper that St. Louis starters pitch into games, the better the bullpen's chances are. That's started to happen lately, and Todd Wellemeyer will try to keep it going on Saturday.

Cards starters have turned in three consecutive seven-inning starts. With the exception of rehabbing Chris Carpenter, who likely could have gone at least six in his last outing if not for a rain delay, St. Louis starters have gone six or more in eight out of nine games.

"It sets up the relievers to just go out there for one inning or a hitter or two," manager Tony La Russa said. "You keep everybody fresh. It would be a great way to play the series -- or play the whole road trip."

The club has been more cautious with Wellemeyer than with some of its other starters, especially since his return from an elbow injury. But even if he's unlikely to get into the final two innings, he has gotten through the sixth in four of his past five starts.

Pitching matchup
STL: RHP Todd Wellemeyer (8-4, 4.01 ERA)
Over his past three outings, Wellemeyer has begun to regain his form that made him May's Pitcher of the Month. Despite yielding two runs or fewer in each of his past three starts, Wellemeyer has received three straight no-decisions. Now he gets to carry his new-found momentum against the Cubs -- the team with whom he began his big league career. He has made two starts against Chicago in his career, going 1-1 with a 4.09 ERA.

CHC: RHP Carlos Zambrano (12-4, 2.76 ERA)
The hard-throwing Cubs ace lowered his ERA for the third start in a row on Sunday against the Pirates. He threw only 82 pitches over five innings and did not receive a decision, as skipper Lou Piniella played it safe after Zambrano had thrown 243 pitches in his previous two starts. That, along with a fifth day of rest, means Zambrano should be well rested for this one. In his previous start against St. Louis, Zambrano worked six scoreless innings for the win, striking out five while giving up four hits. He is 9-4 with a 2.26 ERA in 19 career starts against the Cardinals.

Wellemeyer, who came up through the Cubs' Minor League system, will be making his first start at Wrigley Field. He has a 5.47 ERA in 34 career relief appearances at Wrigley. ... Felipe Lopez is 9-for-31 (.290) against Zambrano with a .405 on-base percentage and a .581 slugging percentage. ... Aaron Miles entered the weekend with a lifetime .229 batting average at Wrigley.

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On the Internet
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•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

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On radio
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Up next
• Sunday: Cardinals (Chris Carpenter, 0-0, 1.00) at Cubs (Ryan Dempster, 12-5, 2.93), 7:05 p.m. CT
• Monday: Cardinals (Joel Pineiro, 4-5, 5.04) at Marlins (Anibal Sanchez, 1-1, 4.22), 6:10 p.m. CT
• Tuesday: Cardinals (Kyle Lohse, 13-4, 3.80) at Marlins (Chris Volstad, 3-2, 2.67), 6:10 p.m. CT

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.