First on the docket are the White Sox and their 8-18 record, minus-42 run differential and shaky pitching. The two-game series starts Tuesday night when St. Louis right-hander Michael Wacha (4-1, 3.62) matches up with veteran James Shields (1-3, 6.14 ERA).
The Cardinals (15-12) fell from first place in the National League Central into a tie for third with Milwaukee after being swept by the Pirates. Following a come-from-ahead 6-5, 11-inning loss Friday night in which it blew a 5-0 lead, St. Louis dropped 6-2 and 5-0 decisions in the last two games of the weekend series.
Aside from starting pitching, little went right for the Cardinals in Pittsburgh. Their offense managed all of two runs in the last 24 innings of the series, the defense made four errors in the series and the bullpen threw high-octane gasoline on fires in the series' first two games.
In sharp contrast, the Pirates' bullpen authored 11 2/3 scoreless innings, including 6 1/3 on Friday night that allowed them a chance to erase St. Louis' five-run advantage.
"When their starter is gone, that usually means good results are going to happen," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "That's what our offense is going to do. We grind at-bats. Long at-bats create more opportunities."
The Cardinals will hope for those opportunities against Shields, whose only win this year came on Opening Day in Kansas City when Chicago erased a 4-0 first inning deficit by putting up 14 runs. Shields is coming off a 4-3 loss Wednesday to Seattle in which he permitted six hits and four runs over six innings.
Shields has faced St. Louis just twice in his career, both while pitching for Kansas City, and is 0-1 with an 8.74 ERA, allowing 11 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings. Kolten Wong touched him for his first career grand slam four years ago.
Wacha will make his second career appearance against the White Sox, having beaten them in July 2015 despite permitting five runs over five innings. But Wacha has been considerably stingier since eating a loss on March 31 at the New York Mets, winning four straight starts.
He avenged the defeat to New York on Wednesday night with six good innings, fanning a season-high eight and allowing just one run off five hits and a walk in a 9-1 romp. Wacha has won all three of his starts at home this year, yielding only four runs in 17 2/3 innings.
Chicago is hopeful the eastern end of Missouri is as friendly as the western end has been. Five of the White Sox's eight wins have occurred in Kansas City, where they won the first three in a five-game weekend series before dropping the final two games, including a 5-4 decision on Sunday.
"When you are going through a rebuild, you have to understand there will be some struggles," shortstop Tim Anderson told mlb.com after Sunday's loss. "But we're a new generation. We just have to continue to play hard and have fun."