The Cubs can clinch a winning month of August with a sweep of their Saturday doubleheader in St. Louis.
Of course, that won't come easily, especially this late in the season against a team with as much to play for as the Cardinals.
St. Louis missed a chance to close its gap in the National League Central race with its 7-2 loss to begin the series Friday evening. They are still in line for one of the Wild Cards, but the Braves moved to one game back with their 5-2 win over the Marlins.
In the early game of the day-night twin bill, left-hander Felix Doubront will be making his Cubs debut. He was acquired from Boston at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for a player to be named.
The 26-year-old Doubront was not exactly having a career year for the Red Sox. In 10 starts, he went 4-2 with a 5.19 ERA. But Doubront really toiled as a reliever, giving up 11 runs on 15 hits in nine innings.
He'll be hoping to turn over a new leaf as he begins his career with the Cubs. Doubront, who's been on the disabled list with a calf injury since the deal that brought him to the North Side, said he was able to get all of his pitches over for strikes in his last rehab appearance.
"I'm really excited to be pitching tomorrow," Doubront said on Friday. "I'm just going to try to keep calm. I know I'm going to be excited and nervous with the first pitch, but after that -- I've been in this situation before and I think I can handle it. We're humans. Starting, that's what I wish for. I'm looking forward to it."
It'll be an important start for Doubront's counterpart, too -- St. Louis' Justin Masterson. The right-hander has had a rough transition to the Cardinals organization since he, too, came over at the Deadline.
In four of Masterson's five starts since he was traded by the Indians, he's allowed at least four runs. With Michael Wacha's return to the Cardinals' rotation coming in the near future, Masterson may be pitching for his starting job. As always, the key to his success is his sinker.
"Coming over to a team, shoot, whomever you're with, you want to come out there and dominate on your day," Masterson said after his last start. "Give the boys a chance to win. It's tough when you don't get it done, and then it's tougher when you put on top of it you're trying to make a playoff run."
The nightcap will see the Cubs' Tsuyoshi Wada oppose fellow southpaw Marco Gonzales. It's a spot start for Gonzalez, who is St. Louis' 26th man under the doubleheader rules. He'll be making his fourth start of the year after being selected in the first round of last year's Draft.
Cubs: Castro owns up to mistake
On Wednesday, Starlin Castro failed to run hard after hitting a ball to center, and it may have proved costly in a loss to the Reds. On Friday, Castro doubled with one out in the sixth, tried to stretch his hit, and was thrown out at third. The Cubs are working on finding a happy medium.
"Here's a guy who everybody gets on because he doesn't run out of the box," Cubs manager Rick Renteria said. "He's been hustling, he runs out of the box hard, gets to second base, and in that instance, he did everything I wanted him to do except now you have to make sure you see the ball in front of you.
"I said, 'It's OK in this instance to stay there,'" Renteria said. "I'll take that and take being able to explain to him how to approach it better than him not getting over there. I think he showed everybody he's willing to go ahead and do the things he's supposed to. We have to do it consistently over a long period of time. At least he showed me something by trying to get over there and trying to make something happen."
The Cubs are counting on players like Castro and Anthony Rizzo to be examples for the rookies, who aren't much younger than the pair. General manager Jed Hoyer said he liked how Renteria handled Castro. It was the shortstop's second game back from the bereavement list.
"First of all, I'd say, I'm really glad Starlin right away went and apologized to everyone," Hoyer said. "He knew he messed up. I think it's the wrong time right now, and Ricky knows this -- [Castro] is going through a lot. He knows he made a mistake, he apologized to everyone. It's not something you need to harp on."
Hoyer complimented Castro's play this season, saying he's eliminated a lot of the mental mistakes.
"In some ways we're asking a lot of those guys -- we need those guys to show [the rookies] how to play," Hoyer said of Castro and Rizzo.
Cardinals: Club prepared in case long relief is necessary
St. Louis has stocked its bullpen nicely for the doubleheader.
The club kept an extra reliever on the roster to give itself some more leeway in terms of how the bullpen will be handled. There are currently three pitchers on the roster suited to long-relief work -- Tyler Lyons, Nick Greenwood and Carlos Martinez.
• Zac Rosscup was optioned to Triple-A Iowa to make room for Doubront's return from the DL, but he will serve as the Cubs' 26th man for the doubleheader.
• Doubront will likely be a part of what would be a six-man rotation for the Cubs' final month.
• The Cubs will salute the Jackie Robinson West Little League team on Monday at Wrigley Field.
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.