Giants-Cardinals Preview

After a rough first few starts, Ryan Vogelsong has been nearly untouchable over the last month.

If Jaime Garcia’s latest performance is any indication, he may be able to give the St. Louis Cardinals a boost going forward.

Looking to extend his streak of 13 2-3 scoreless innings, Vogelsong opposes Garcia as the major league-leading San Francisco Giants open a four-game series in St. Louis on Thursday night.

Vogelsong (3-2, 3.20 ERA) posted a 7.71 ERA in his first four outings before finding his form. The right-hander has since gone 3-1 with a 1.35 ERA while yielding one or no runs in five of six starts.

"I feel like when I’m out there, I can throw anything in any count," he said. "That’s a great feeling. It’s not always like that but the last couple of games it has been that way. It definitely helps your mentality on the mound."

Vogelsong delivered another strong showing Saturday, allowing three hits and striking out seven over 6 2-3 scoreless innings to beat Minnesota 2-1.

"He was throwing good cutters to both sides of the plate," Twins outfielder Jason Kubel said. "If you’re thinking cutter, he’ll throw the straight one in at you, too, and it gets guys to chase. He’s got a good curveball. When he’s got his pitches, he’s tough to hit."

Vogelsong has gone 1-1 with a 3.12 ERA in his last three starts against the Cardinals (29-24). He gave up five runs over 5 1-3 innings of a 6-3 loss to them in his season debut April 6, 2013.

After working his way back from shoulder surgery, Garcia (1-0, 4.26) earned his first win in more than a year Saturday, 6-3 at Cincinnati. The left-hander gave up two runs and struck out seven over 5 2-3 innings.

"I didn’t go as deep as I wanted to," Garcia said. "It’s a W for me, a W for the team. That’s what is most important here. It’s obviously exciting to go out there and feel healthy, and to go out there and try to compete."

Garcia threw 55 of his 75 pitches for strikes and didn’t walk anyone.

"He needs to be aggressive in the zone and trust his defense behind him," manager Mike Matheny told MLB’s official website.

Garcia is 2-0 with a 0.81 ERA during a three-start stretch against the Giants, last facing them in 2012.

San Francisco (34-19) has won six of seven, outscoring opponents by a 34-13 margin, after blanking the Chicago Cubs in back-to-back games. The Giants won 4-0 on Tuesday and Tim Lincecum threw five innings of no-hit ball in Wednesday’s 5-0 victory.

Pablo Sandoval has carried the offense for the Giants, as the two-time All-Star is batting .429 with four homers and 13 RBIs during an eight-game hitting streak.

"When good hitters get in a zone, they’re fun to watch," manager Bruce Bochy said of Sandoval, who has also driven in at least one run in each of the last eight. "Pablo’s been the guy that’s really come through for us. The whole lineup, we’re getting contributions, but he seems like he’s in such a good zone right now and he’s the guy you want up there with men on base."

Sandoval is hitting .375 with three homers and nine RBIs during an eight-game stretch against the Cardinals, including the 2012 NLCS.

St. Louis just dropped two of three to the New York Yankees, falling 7-4 in Wednesday’s finale. Kolten Wong collected a career-high four hits but the Cardinals went 3 for 15 with runners in scoring position.

St. Louis outscored San Francisco 37-12 in taking four of six meetings last year.