Tony Cruz to start at catcher for Cardinals in Game 5

Tony Cruz is in to face a lefty starter and to catch ace Adam Wainwright's tough curveball.

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

SAN FRANCISCO — Catcher Tony Cruz is in the St. Louis lineup for Game 5 of the NL Championship Series with the Cardinals facing elimination by the San Francisco Giants.

A.J. Pierzynski caught the previous two games in place of injured star Yadier Molina and went 1 for 6 with an RBI single Wednesday.

Cruz is in to face a lefty starter in Madison Bumgarner and to catch ace Adam Wainwright’s tough curveball.

Molina is missing his third straight start Thursday night after two losses at AT&T Park. He strained his left oblique muscle during Sunday’s Game 2 at Busch Stadium.

The six-time All-Star and Cardinals leader warmed up in the bullpen each of the past two nights, but wasn’t used by manager Mike Matheny. Molina tried to take some swings before Wednesday’s 6-4 loss, but still felt discomfort in his side.

Before missing Tuesday’s Game 3, Molina had started the previous 83 postseason games for the Cardinals — since Matheny was behind the plate for Game 3 of the 2004 World Series against Boston.