Giants-Cardinals Preview

The St. Louis Cardinals have alternated wins and losses in their

last seven games, but they’re hoping the beginning of a new month

brings more consistency.

What they’ll definitely be getting to open June is a major

challenge at the plate.

Tim Lincecum gave up six earned runs in five starts last month

and has won five of his six career starts against St. Louis,

patterns of success the Giants ace looks to continue Wednesday

night at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals (33-23) won eight of nine from May 16-24 to go

from 1 1/2 games out of first place in the NL Central to 3 1/2

games in front, .

Three losses in five games nearly became four in six Tuesday

against San Francisco (29-25), but St. Louis didn’t let a late 3-1

deficit get in its way. Doubles from Jon Jay, Albert Pujols and

Allen Craig tied the score at 3, then Skip Schumaker’s infield

single plated Craig and lifted the Cardinals to a 4-3 win.

“It’s a good win, a comeback win against a very good bullpen,”

said Schumaker, who had been 2 for 19 since returning from the

disabled list before his big hit. “It’s very meaningful.”

Piecing together consecutive victories won’t be easy against

Lincecum (5-4, 2.22 ERA), particularly if Matt Holliday is again

not in the starting lineup. Holliday returned to the lineup Monday

after not starting since May 22 because of a strained left

quadriceps, but he was limited to pinch-hitting duties Tuesday.

Lincecum, meanwhile, went 3-1 with a 1.47 ERA in May, capping it

with a pair of victories. He pitched a three-hitter in a 3-0 win

over Oakland on May 21, then gave up three runs over seven innings

Friday in Milwaukee, going from a likely loss to a 5-4 win thanks

to rookie Brandon Crawford’s seventh-inning grand slam.

Despite completing a strong month, Lincecum’s velocity was down

against the Brewers. The staff ace, though, says he’s fine

physically.

“Nothing’s hurt or anything,” Lincecum told the Giants’ official

website. “I felt like I was laboring through most of the game, for

the most part. Sliders were flat. Fastball was down (in velocity).

Changeup was not really diving or anything.”

The two-time Cy Young Award winner was 5-0 with a 1.54 ERA

against the Cardinals before giving up four runs over 5 1-3 innings

in a 5-1 loss Aug. 21 at Busch.

Pujols, who made his second start of the season at third base

Tuesday, is 5 for 14 lifetime versus Lincecum.

Jake Westbrook (5-3, 5.19) gets the ball for St. Louis seeking

his fourth consecutive victory. After giving up one run over 15

innings in wins over Philadelphia and Kansas City, the right-hander

wasn’t nearly as sharp Friday in Colorado, but allowing three runs

over five innings proved to be good enough in a 10-3 victory.

Westbrook is 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in his last three home starts

after opening 0-2 with an 18.41 ERA.

He wasn’t sharp at all in the Cardinals’ 5-4, 12-inning loss at

San Francisco on April 8. But despite giving up eight hits –

including homers to Pat Burrell and Miguel Tejada – and walking

four over 5 2-3 innings, he only surrendered three runs.

Giants rookie Brandon Belt will likely miss a few days after

being hit in the wrist with a pitch in the seventh inning Tuesday.

That could put the struggling Aubrey Huff back at first base

Wednesday, but manager Bruce Bochy said he may give him a second

straight day off.