It’s weird to forget about the Cardinals. They’ve been one of baseball’s more prominent franchises over the last decade and a half; the Giants have a recent and exciting history of facing them in the postseason; they’re home to perhaps the two biggest Giants killers in baseball (non-Max Muncy division); and the media attention is seemingly always focused on them.
Yet I forget about them. They just kind of exist, year in and year out, as the team that is pictured in the dictionary under “baseball team.”
And it’s been 669 days since the Giants played them.
Who: San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Where: Oracle Park, San Francisco, California
When: Monday (3:05 p.m.), Tuesday (6:45 p.m.), and Wednesday (6:45 p.m.)
National broadcasts: None
Where they stand
San Francisco Giants
Record: 53-30, 1st in the NL West
Run differential: +106, 2nd in the NL
Postseason standing: 1st seed
Momentum: 3-game winning streak, 6-4 in their last 10 games
St. Louis Cardinals
Record: 41-44, 4th in the NL Central
Run differential: -41, 12th in the NL
Postseason standing: 8.5 games out of the Wild Card, 10 games out of the division
Momentum: 2-game losing streak, 5-5 in their last 10 games
Three Giants to watch
Austin Slater: Slater was on options watch until the weekend, when he broke out of a massive slump in the best way possible: with a go-ahead, two-out, two-run homer on Saturday night, and another dinger on Sunday. Legend has it that those two baseballs still haven’t returned to earth. The Giants face a lefty in the series opener, so Slater will get to keep the groove going.
Johnny Cueto: The three of you that read these previews have surely gotten sick of me putting Cueto here, but he remains one of the few players on the Giants roster who can’t quite be figured out. His last two games have epitomized that: he had a seven-inning scoreless start against an above-average offense (the Athletics), and then followed it up with a five-inning, five-run start against one of baseball’s worst offenses (the Diamondbacks), which was also missing some of its best players. He’s all over the place at the moment.
Steven Duggar: Two righties will take the mound this series for the Cardinals and, with Mike Tauchman injured, that means two starts for Duggar. His bat has refused to slow down, and with other players on the Giants finding their swings — like Mike Yastrzemski, Wilmer Flores, and Alex Dickerson — a hot Duggar bat turns a very good lineup into an absolutely potent one.
Three Cardinals to watch
Nolan Arenado: Giant Killer No. 1. The Giants will be facing Arenado in a Cardinals jersey for the first time, and they’ll be crossing their fingers that the jersey negatively impacts him. Arenado has played almost a full season against the Giants (132 games), and is hitting .291/.354/.556, with 73 extra-base hits, and 45 walks to just 66 strikeouts. Yeesh. He’s hitting .261/.319/.500 this season, his first with St. Louis.
Paul Goldschmidt: Giant Killer No. 2. Goldschmidt is having a down year, hitting just .256/.324/.421. But similarly to Arenado, Goldy has nearly played a full season against the Giants, with 141 games in his career against the black and orange. And in those games he’s hitting .289/.403/.522. Somewhere our beloved Tim Lincecum is hiding.
Johan Oviedo: I debated picking another player so I wouldn’t have to share the following anecdote, because I am absolutely cursing and jinxing the Giants by doing so. But I’m paid to tell you what’s up, not to help the Giants win games, so I’m sorry, and here goes: Oviedo has made 15 starts in his Major League career, and has yet to win a game. The 23 year old righty, who starts the series finale, has all kind of talent — Fangraphs ranked him the team’s No. 8 prospect at the start of the season — but hasn’t yet put it together. This year he’s rocking a 5.14 ERA and 5.28 FIP, with 26 walks to just 37 strikeouts in 49 innings.