NL Tilt: St. Louis Cardinals at San Francisco Giants

NL Tilt: St. Louis Cardinals at San Francisco Giants

Two teams in the middle of the National League wild-card race square off Saturday afternoon as the San Francisco Giants host the St. Louis Cardinals. The teams have split the first two games of their series after the Giants squeaked out a 3-2 win on Friday. The St. Louis Cardinals are small favorites at -110 over the Giants on Saturday.

Friday’s win snapped a four-game losing skid for the Giants, who have not gotten off to a good start in July. San Francisco is just 3.5 games out of first place in the NL West, but they have three teams to jump over to get there. They are also 4.5 games back in the wild-card race. On the bright side, Johnny Cueto returned on Thursday, giving their rotation a 1-2 punch with him and Madison Bumgarner, so there is reason for optimism.

St. Louis, meanwhile, is struggling to keep pace in the NL Central. The Cardinals have had crazy highs and lows the past few weeks, and that inconsistency has caused them to drop 7.5 games out of first place. However, they are just four games back in a crowded wild-card race, so with a little more consistency, the Red Birds can easily make a push for the postseason.

The Real Thing

St. Louis ace Carlos Martinez will get the start Saturday for the Cardinals. Martinez has not quite been himself since returning from a lat strain in early June. However, he’s been much better in his last two outings, allowing two runs over six innings in each start. Those two starts show meaningful progress despite Martinez posting a 6.75 ERA over his five starts in the month of June.

Historically, Martinez has had his way against most of San Francisco’s hitters. Outside of Andrew McCutchen, who is 6 for 38 (.158) against Martinez, it’s been a small-sample-size. However, Giants hitters are collectively 15 for 87 (.172) against Martinez. That bodes well for the St. Louis ace, especially since few hitters in San Francisco’s lineup have been overly productive over the past week aside from Buster Posey.

Another Big Return

As mentioned, Cueto returned from the DL on Thursday, and now the Giants will activate Jeff Samardzija to start Saturday’s game. Samardzija has had a rough year, going 1-4 with a 6.56 ERA in eight starts. He’s also been limited by two separate stints on the DL, but he said earlier in the week that he feels good about his return from injury this time around.

Samardzija also has a fair amount of experience facing some of the St. Louis hitters from his days with the Cubs. He’s been able to keep Matt Carpenter and Jedd Gyorko in check for the most part, but Samardzija has been crushed by Yadier Molina, who is 12 for 28 (.429) against him. Molina is also swinging a hot bat, and the same can be said for Gyorko, Tommy Pham, and rookie Harrison Bader, so Samardzija should be challenged in his first start back.

Don’t Believe the Hype

It’s hard to trust Samardzija to provide the Giants with a quality performance in his first start back from the DL, especially with his struggles earlier this season. Martinez, meanwhile, has been better lately and has a good history against the Giants, so he figures to deliver another quality start. This game on Friday is a no brainer. Take the St. Louis Cardinals -110 on Saturday.

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