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Series Preview 9/21-23: Giants vs. Cardinals

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Can the Cardinals add to their October hopes this weekend, against a former postseason foe?

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Atlanta Braves Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

After a taking two of three from the Braves in Atlanta, the Cardinals are back in the Gateway City to begin their final homestand of the regular season. First on tap: the San Francisco Giants for a three-game series that will start on Friday night at Busch Stadium.

Entering play on Friday, the Cardinals are 84-69 and hold sole possession of the second National Wild Card spot; the 87-66 Brewers are in control of the top seed. The Rockies, at 82-70, sit 1 12 games behind St. Louis for that second spot.

In the Central standings, the Cubs are 2 12 games up on the Brewers for the division crown, with the Cardinals 5 12 back. The West features the Dodgers on top; the Rockies are 2 12 out, and the Diamondbacks - with seven losses in their last 10 games - sit six games back and four games away from elimination.

Friday’s series opener is set to feature John Gant and Madison Bumgarner at 7:15 PM Central time. Gant was roughed up back on 9/15, a game that ended as a 17-4 Los Angeles victory. In 4 13 innings, Gant surrendered six runs - including one of Yasiel Puig’s three home runs. With the rough outing, Gant now has allowed eight runs in 15 13 frames in September. Gant did pitch well against these Giants back in July (6 IP, 2 ER, 5 Ks), so we’ll see if good momentum will shift back his way.

The start of 29-year-old Bumgarner’s season was put on hold by a fracture in his hand that sidelined him from big-league work until early June. Since then, nonetheless, Bumgarner has pitched well. In 19 games and starts since June 5, Bumgarner has a 3.14 ERA with a dozen quality starts. Facing Bumgarner in past regular-season play, Yadier Molina is 5-for-17 and Marcell Ozuna is 4-for-12.

The middle game of the series on Saturday will have Adam Wainwright and Dereck Rodriguez on the mound. It is an early start time, contrary to what any paper schedule may tell you; first pitch is set for 12:05 PM. Wainwright was spectacular against the Dodgers on Sunday, 9/16. To help the Cardinals avoid the sweep, Wainwright twirled six scoreless innings with nine punchouts. Wainwright has not faced San Francisco since May of 2017.

Dereck, the son of Hall of Fame catcher Ivan Rodriguez, enters the weekend with a 1.87 ERA over his last seven starts and a 2.30 mark in 109 13 innings pitched this season. Rodriguez made his Major League debut in late May and has been one of the club’s top pitchers - and is making a respectable case for Rookie of the Year consideration.

Sunday’s series finale will showcase Miles Mikolas and Andrew Sanchez at 1:15 PM. This is the first 30-plus-start season of Mikolas’ career; his previous high was ten starts for the Rangers back in 2014. We’ll get to see Mikolas work at Busch Stadium, a place he seems to have enjoyed working. He has a 2.23 ERA with a .237 BAA in 15 starts at home.

Sanchez, like Rodriguez, is a new face to the Giants’ pitching staff. Unlike Rodriguez, though, Sanchez has been a season-long face. The 26-year-old’s start on Sunday will be his 28th of the season. Sanchez, a lefty, has kept his left-handed opponents in check, with 32 strikeouts in a total of 43 innings against them.