The St. Louis Cardinals are hoping to revive their playoff hopes during this weekend’s four-game road series against the San Francisco Giants, and got off to a promising start with Thursday’s 5-2 victory. St. Louis heads into Friday’s contest six games behind the first-place Chicago Cubs in the National League Central and five back of the Colorado Rockies for the second wild-card spot.
Randal Grichuk snapped a 3-for-26 skid with a two-run homer and Michael Wacha tossed six strong innings Thursday to lead St. Louis past a cellar-dwelling Giants team that has lost nine of its last 12 games. Tommy Pham is 10-for-21 with three home runs and eight RBIs during his six-game hitting streak for the Cardinals, who have not lost a series in San Francisco since Mike Matheny took over as manager in 2012. The Giants are giving third baseman Pablo Sandoval an extended look with an eye toward next season, but the veteran went 0-for-4 on Thursday and is batting .215 after going hitless in his last 23 at-bats. Shortstop Brandon Crawford finished his torrid August with two more hits Thursday and is 20-for-51 with three homers over the past 12 games.
TV: 10:15 p.m. ET, FSN Midwest (St. Louis), NBCSN Bay Area (San Francisco)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Cardinals RH Jack Flaherty (MLB debut) vs. Giants RH Johnny Cueto (6-7, 4.59 ERA)
The Cardinals are calling up Flaherty to make his major league debut in place of Mike Leake, who was traded to Seattle on Wednesday. The 21-year-old has split time between Double- and Triple-A this season, posting a 2.18 ERA with 147 strikeouts and 35 walks in 25 starts covering 148 2/3 innings. Flaherty was the 34th overall pick in the 2014 draft out of Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles.
Cueto is set to make his first start since mid-July after battling blister issues and a strained flexor tendon. The 31-year-old struggled in a minor-league rehab outing for Class-A San Jose last Sunday, allowing eight runs (five earned) and nine hits over 3 2/3 innings. Yadier Molina is 11-for-43 with two home runs against Cueto, who is 7-8 with a 3.75 ERA in 22 career starts against St. Louis, including 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA in two outings last season.
1. The Cardinals recalled RHP John Gant from Triple-A Memphis and designated LHP Kevin Siegrist for assignment after activating him from the 10-day disabled list.
2. Giants LHP Madison Bumgarner was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday because of flu-like symptoms but could return to start Sunday’s series finale.
3. St. Louis is expected to promote RHP Sandy Alcantara from Triple-A Memphis prior to Friday’s game.
PREDICTION: Cardinals 6, Giants 5