A four-game series in San Francisco figures to be tough and tight for the St. Louis Cardinals. And meaningful? You bet.
The Giants have a half-game lead over the New York Mets and a one-game lead over the Cardinals in the NL wild-card race. One of the three teams will be left out of the postseason.
“It seems like we’ve had a lot of late-in-the-year games in San Francisco that (have been) meaningful,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said, referring to the Cardinals’ losses to the Giants in the NL Championship Series in 2012 and 2014. “It’s a great atmosphere. I knew they were going to be a good team.”
It’s time for us to either make or break at this point. We understand the situation we’re in. We understand the situation we’ve put ourselves in. We’ve just got to go on the road and execute and do what we’ve got to do to get victories.
St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong
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With just 17 games remaining, every win is critical. Considering how well the Cardinals play on the road (43-28), it may be a blessing to leave Busch Stadium. In the last four games of the homestand, the Cardinals lost three times and scored six runs.
“It’s time for us to either make or break at this point,” Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong said Wednesday after a dismal 7-0 loss to the Chicago Cubs dropped St. Louis to 33-41 at home. “We understand the situation we’re in. We understand the situation we’ve put ourselves in. We’ve just got to go on the road and execute and do what we’ve got to do to get victories.
“There’s no pressure at this point. You either get it done or we’re going home early. We understand that. This is a playoff atmosphere we’re going into now. You’ve got to have fun, enjoy it and play as hard as you can. We want to go into their house and try to do whatever we can to see if we can scratch some victories across. It’s going to be a tough task. They’re a good team.”
The road trip also includes stops in Colorado and Chicago for three-game series.
We’ve played really well on the road. We’re pressing a little bit here at home, trying to right the ship at home. Obviously, it hasn’t gone well here for us. When we go on the road, we play a little more loose, a little more relaxed. Hopefully, that continues for these next 10 games.
Cardinals left fielder/first baseman Brandon Moss
First baseman/left fielder Brandon Moss called the competition against San Francisco “the biggest series of the year for us so far.”
“You just move on and go into a really big series,” Moss said. “Hopefully, we do better than we did this series.
“We’ve played really well on the road. We’re pressing a little bit here at home, trying to right the ship at home. Obviously, it hasn’t gone well here for us. When we go on the road, we play a little more loose, a little more relaxed. Hopefully, that continues for these next 10 games.”
The pitching matchups for the first three games of the series are: Adam Wainwright (11-8, 4.45 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (15-5, 2.90 ERA), 9:15 p.m. Thursday; Luke Weaver (1-2, 3.48 ERA) vs. Matt Moore (3-4, 4.05 ERA), 9:15 p.m. Friday; and Mike Leake (9-10, 4.60 ERA) vs. Jeff Samardzija (11-10, 4.07 ERA), 8:05 p.m. Saturday.
Leake pitched for the Giants in August and September of last season.
The Giants will pitch Albert Suarez (3-3, 4.37 ERA) in the finale at 3:05 p.m. Sunday. The Cardinals are expected to pitch rookie Alex Reyes or struggling Jaime Garcia.
Matheny played for the Giants in 2005-06. Bruce Bochy’s first season as San Francisco’s manager was 2007.
“He’s had good teams and he knows what he’s doing,” Matheny said. “I’ve learned a lot by watching him, how he uses his bench, listening to different things that I hear about how he’s used his (pitching) staff. Any team is going to be hard to beat when it has people that do their jobs. They’ve got players that play the game well.
“What’s hurt us in the past (against the Giants) is the fact that we’ve made more mistakes than they have. ... It seems like on the defensive side, it stands out more than anything else. They’ve played a clean game and we’ve opened the door. It seems to stand out against the Giants.”
Cubs 7, Cardinals 0
Jon Lester blanked the Cardinals on three hits in eight innings and Anthony Rizzo hit two homers as the Cubs won two out of three in the series to cut their magic number for clinching the NL Central to one.
By the numbers
The Cardinals’ loss dropped them to 33-41 at Busch Stadium and assured them of their first losing season at home since 1999. ... The Cardinals lost all three three-game series to the Cubs at Busch. ... St. Louis had just 11 hits in the series, and all five of its runs came on home runs. ... Carlos Martinez’s string of six consecutive quality starts came to an end.
At San Francisco, Adam Wainwright (11-8, 4.45 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (15-5, 2.90 ERA), 9:15 p.m. Thursday.