NL playoff contenders will continue a three-game series on Saturday afternoon at Busch Stadium with the San Francisco Giants visiting the St. Louis Cardinals. San Francisco enters in third place in the loaded NL West at 20-12, while the Cardinals hold down second in the NL Central with a 17-15 overall record.
These teams met last weekend in San Francisco, splitting a four-game set. St. Louis hasn't lost the season series to the Giants since 2014.
Giants back on track with six straight winsAfter hitting a rare slump last week, the Giants have been able to recover with six straight wins including a three-game sweep of the Rockies in which they outscored Colorado 24-8. Brandon Crawford, Joey Bart and Brandon Belt all drove in runs in the fourth inning of Wednesday's finale to get the scoring started, with Crawford adding a two-run shot in the fifth to ensure the blowout was on.
Alex Cobb turned in 5.1 strong innings to earn the win, allowing one run on three hits and two walks while striking out six. LaMonte Wade Jr. went 3-4 with an RBI and a walk, while Belt was on base three times.
“One of the strengths of our club last year, one of the best teams you could possibly imagine, was our bench was strong and deep, and very dependable,” manager Gabe Kapler said via MLB.com. “As much as it helps to have a guy like Evan Longoria back in the starting lineup, it’s equally important that our bench is getting stronger.”
The Giants followed that up with an 8-2 win over the Cardinals Friday night, their 6th straight win.
San Francisco is now up on the money line this season with the recent win streak while going 17-15 on the run line overall. Overs are 17-14-1 for the Giants, with seven of their last nine games going over the betting total.
The Giants are now the second-highest scoring team in baseball at 5.09 runs per game on a .709 team OPS. San Francisco pitching also ranks within the top 10 with a 3.38 collective ERA including a mark of 3.39 from the bullpen.
Austin Slater is producing at a high level for the Giants, leading the offense with an .864 OPS while driving in 10 runs and scoring 11 times. Belt continues to provide the pop with an .854 OPS, four homers, 11 RBI and 12 runs scored.
Jakob Junis will make his fourth overall appearance and second start for the Giants this season, looking to build on a 1-0 record, 1.20 ERA and 15:3 K:BB ratio in his first year with the team so far. The 29-year-old was moved to the rotation last Sunday against these Cardinals, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks in five innings while striking out five to take a no-decision.
San Francisco is much healthier now after having a number of key players injured earlier in the season, although second baseman Tommy La Stella (Achillies inflammation) and outfielder Steven Duggar (strained oblique) remain on the IL. Starting pitcher Anthony DeSclafani is recovering from ankle inflammation, while Matthew Boyd is out long-term after undergoing flexor tendon surgery. Key reliever Jake McGee hit the IL earlier this week with lower back tightness.
Cardinals hope to shake off series loss to OriolesSt. Louis missed out on a chance to gain ground on the first-place Milwaukee Brewers to start the week in a surprising series loss to Baltimore as the Cardinals' offense could not get going in Thursday's rubber game. Dylan Carlson got St. Louis on the board with a solo homer in the seventh before Nolan Arenado added a sacrifice fly the next innings, but it wasn't enough for a rally.
Starter Steven Matz went 6.2 innings, allowing three runs on seven hits while striking out seven. Arenado added a double, St. Louis' only other extra-base hit for the game in addition to the Carlson homer.
“Today was a great outing for Matz,” said catcher Andrew Knizer via MLB.com. “You pitch into the seventh inning and you give up a couple of runs -- you’re supposed to win that game. If starting pitching can get us into the seventh with less than three runs, that’s all we can ask for. We’ve got to score runs.”
The Cards dropped to 17-15 with an 8-2 loss Friday night to the Giants. St. Louis is up only narrowly on the money line so far this season while going a matching 17-15 on the run line. Overs are 16-15-1 for the Cardinals after three of their last four games went over the betting total.
The Cardinals rank in the top 11 in scoring offense at 4.31 runs per game although they are closer to league average in OPS with a mark of .691. St. Louis pitching has been even more of a strength with a 3.56 ERA, including a mark of 3.27 from a strong bullpen.
Arenado has been one of the best players in baseball so far with a .305/.378/.596 line, seven homers and 26 RBI, landing him fourth on the MLB WAR leaderboard with a mark of 2.0. Tommy Edman is also hitting well with an .807 OPS, three homers, 8 stolen bases and 16 RBI.
Dakota Hudson will make his seventh start of the season after going 4.2 innings against these Giants last Sunday, allowing three runs on five hits and four walks while failing to record a strikeout. The 27-year-old is hoping to return from a number of injury-plagued years and is 2-2 with a 3.56 ERA through 30.1 innings this season.
Jack Flaherty, a former frontline pitcher who has dealt with injuries over the last few years, remains out with shoulder bursitis. Adam Wainwright is hoping to clear COVID protocols and return to the rotation this weekend. Closer Alex Reyes, who racked up 29 saves in 2021, will miss most of the season with shoulder soreness, while reliever Drew VerHagen has a hip impingement.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Last week's slump shouldn't be a concern when betting the Giants, as they are getting healthier and look more like the team that finished with baseball's best record in 2021 over the past few days. Predictive metrics indicate that Hudson won't be able to keep up this ERA much longer, and Junis is a talented pitcher who may be benefitting from a change of scenery.
After several tough years in Kansas City, Junis is thriving to begin his San Francisco stint behind a lethal changeup, and he'd be far from the first veteran to get things turned around under the current Giants coaching staff. The Giants can provide plenty of run support with a 108 wRC+ that is only going to increase after important hitters like Longoria and Wade Jr. recently returned from IL stints.
Hudson has just a 142 FIP-, and his ERA is going to decline quickly if he continues to walk nearly as many batters as he strikes out. San Francisco has been one of baseball's elite teams outside of that mini-slump last week and should be able to get to Hudson here in a win.
Full-Game Total Pick
Fifteen strong innings don't erase the fact that Junis has just a 104 ERA-/109 FIP- for his career overall, and five frames is probably the longest he'll be able to go into a game at this point. While the Giants bullpen has strong overall numbers, they have fell rapidly over the past two weeks after a fantastic start, and losing a late-inning option in McGee is an important factor.
St. Louis is good enough at the plate to take advantage, posting a solid enough 104 wRC+ while also being tied for the league lead in stolen bases with 27. While both pitching staffs are fantastic, neither of them have their best starters going on Saturday, and these offenses can score enough.