Padres, Cardinals face each other with struggling pitchers

Two young starters searching for consistency will try to find it Wednesday night in the rubber game of a three-game series between the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

Padres left-hander Eric Lauer (2-4, 6.64 ERA) is undergoing on-the-job training with mostly painful results, while Cardinals right-hander Luke Weaver (3-5, 4.35) has won once in his last 10 starts, struggling to put hitters away and frequently running up high pitch counts.

The last start for each summarized their seasons. Lauer suffered a 4-0 loss Friday night in Miami, while Weaver was no-decisioned in a 7-6, 10-inning victory that same evening in Cincinnati as each failed to command the strike zone.

Lauer, who is in the majors because Bryan Mitchell (0-3, 7.08) was horribly ineffective, has allowed a whopping 81 baserunners (57 hits, 24 walks) over 39 1/3 innings in nine starts.

Seven of those walks occurred in Miami, where Lauer threw 111 pitches and gave up three runs in a five-inning stint. Lauer at least managed to minimize damage, escaping a bases-loaded spot in the fifth without ceding extra runs.

“It was a good learning experience for me,” Lauer said to MLB.com. “And a good mental sign for me that (manager Andy Green) was comfortable leaving me in in those situations and letting me get that chance to grow. Being able to work through those tough situations is something I need to do.”

Lauer was shelled in a 9-5 loss to St. Louis at Petco Park on May 11, allowing four homers and six runs over 2 1/3 innings before getting hooked.

Weaver, who pitched well over the last two months of the 2017 season, came out of the gate strong in 2018 with two wins in his first three starts. But Weaver has lasted seven innings just two times in his last 10 outings, taxing a bullpen that hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency.

The Reds touched Weaver for seven hits, five walks and four runs in five-plus innings on Friday, but only a blown save by Bud Norris in the ninth prevented Weaver from notching a win.

“Today was a tough one with the weather conditions and the rain, with it getting a little muddy,” Weaver said to MLB.com. “It is one of those where you have to put your stuff down and grind through it and make some good pitches.”

Weaver has stumped San Diego (32-37) in both career outings, winning both and not allowing a run over 12 innings.

The Padres evened this series Tuesday night as their bullpen checked the Cardinals (36-29) on five hits in a 4-2 victory. Matt Strahm and submarining right-hander Adam Cimber combined to retire the first 15 St. Louis hitters.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said the difference between Cimber and Strahm, a left-hander who touched 94 mph with his fastball, was difficult for his hitters.

“That was unique stuff from the right side,” Matheny said of Cimber. “Most of the time, he’s using the (arm) angle to hit the top of the zone. It’s certainly like an upshoot.”