Cardinals turn to Wainwright in crucial game vs. Giants

ST. LOUIS — Right-hander Adam Wainwright will attempt to pitch himself into postseason form while at the same time helping the St. Louis Cardinals take another step toward the playoffs when he goes against the San Francisco Giants on Saturday afternoon.

The Cardinals (85-69) got a tie-breaking, two-run double from pinch-hitter Matt Adams in the eighth inning Friday night to win the series opener from the Giants 5-3 and retain a 1 1/2-game lead over the Colorado Rockies (83-70) in the duel for the second wild-card playoff spot in the National League.

Wainwright (2-3, 3.72) has started twice since returning from a nearly four-month absence due to elbow and hamstring issues, having shown significant progress from his first start to his second.

After allowing four runs and seven hits in five innings in his comeback effort against Pittsburgh on Sept. 10, Wainwright was brilliant in a 5-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers six days later, throwing six innings of two-hit, shutout ball.

Wainwright hasn’t seen the Giants since last season, when he limited them to five hits and one run over 6 1/3 innings in an 8-3 win in May.

He’s 6-7 with a 3.15 ERA against San Francisco in 15 lifetime meetings, 13 as a starter.

If fully up to speed, the 37-year-old could be a veteran anchor to the Cardinals’ postseason hopes. He’s made 12 playoff starts in his career.

The Cardinals needed 6 1/3 innings of work from five relievers in Friday’s series-opening win. Dakota Hudson and John Brebbia were equally perfect in their performances, each striking out all three batters he saw.

Up by two runs, new closer Carlos Martinez got the job done in the ninth after allowing a leadoff double. He was rewarded with his fourth save.

The Giants, who have been out of the NL postseason chase for more than a month, will send rookie standout Dereck Rodriguez (6-4, 2.30) to the mound in a spoiler role.

Rodriguez gets an opportunity to gain ground on Cardinals right-hander Jack Flaherty in the battle for most wins among NL rookies.

Flaherty, who isn’t scheduled to pitch in this series, currently is tied with San Diego’s Joey Lucchesi with eight wins.

Rodriguez is slated to make just two more starts, and would need to win both to possibly catch Flaherty and Lucchesi.

The 26-year-old has no catching up to do in the duel for ERA lead among rookie starters, with Rodriguez’s 2.30 being far and away the best.

Rodriguez pitched well, but did not get a decision, in a 3-2 home win over the Cardinals in July. He went 6 2/3 innings, allowing two runs and five hits.

Kolten Wong had two of the hits — a double and a triple.

Wong also played a role in Friday’s win, singling in a run in the fifth inning to break a 1-1 tie before adding another RBI single in the sixth to increase the St. Louis lead to 3-1.

The Giants eventually rallied into a 3-3 tie before Adams, pinch-hitting with two on and two outs in the eighth inning, went the opposite way on San Francisco left-hander Tony Watson for a two-run double that provided the margin of victory.

The Cardinals have won three of five from the Giants this season.