Giants GM sees timing of Cardinals series as a blessing

AT&T PARK — The San Francisco Giants have been struggling mightily lately.

They were just swept by the lowly San Diego Padres and have lost three straight to the St. Louis Cardinals, who are in town for a four-game series that starts today.

The Cards own the best road record in baseball at 43-28.

General manager Bobby Evans remains optimistic.

“It’s a good opportunity to be able to control where you finish,” he said. “Right now the ball is in our court. Literally the opportunity is at hand. That’s true with six games remaining with the Dodgers, four with the Cardinals and 10 of our final 17 at home. We’re certainly fortunate.”

The Giants lead the Cardinals by one game for the second wild card spot, and trail the New York Mets for the first. San Francisco lags the Los Angeles Dodgers by five games for the lead in the National League West.

That’s a stark turn from the All-Star Break, which the Giants entered as the best team in baseball.

“It’s very hard to see these guys go through this,” Evans said. “They played such great baseball in the first half. They’ve had some games that they battled and then they just hadn’t finished them. It’s hard on all accounts.

“You have to look at this game today and this series that we’re in now and know that we’re still controlling our fate here with playoff opportunities. If the season ended today, we’re in there. We have to find a way to make sure we solidify that position.”

Lineups

STL:

Matt Carpenter, 1B

Jed Gyorko, SS

Stephen Piscotty, RF

Brandon Moss, LF

Yadier Molina, C

Jhonny Peralta, 3B

Randal Grichuk, CF

Kolten Wong, 2B

Adam Wainwright, P

SF:

Angel Pagan, LF

Joe Panik, 2B

Buster Posey, C

Hunter Pence, RF

Brandon Belt, 1B

Brandon Crawford, SS

Eduardo Nunez, 3B

Denard Span, CF

Johnny Cueto, P

Span dropped in the order

Denard Span, who has led off almost every game he’s played in this year, was dropped to the No. 8 spot in hopes of kickstarting the offense, manager Bruce Bochy said before the game.

“Give him a break until he gets going and finds his swing,” the skipper explained. “I’m trying to do something to get this offense going. And [the problem] hasn’t been Denard, that’s certainly not the case. There are a few guys that aren’t quite locked in. Getting Joe [Panik] down there [in the No. 2 spot], he’s been swinging better and get [Angel] Pagan back to his old spot [leading off]. Hopefully, get the offense going a little bit.”

Nunez feeling better

Third baseman Eduardo Nunez, who has been out for three games in a row, was reintroduced to the starting lineup Thursday.

Bochy warned that he might be scratched before the game began, though.

“I know he wants to go today so he’s in there right now,” Bochy said.

Changing the routine

As a part of a series of moves to shake things up, Bochy changed his players’ pregame routines.

“I decided to just give them a break off the field,” he said about canceling batting practice. “We didn’t hit too much yesterday. Boys looked like we were dragging a little bit so I just wanted to give them a break, let them freshen up. And get their mind off it a little bit so they’re hitting in the cages today.”

Big-time pitching matchup

The starting pitchers in Thursday’s matchup have combined for five All-Star Game appearances and have both played roles on World Series winning teams.

Adam Wainwright and Johnny Cueto have long been aces in the National League, and have faced off four times over their careers.

“Great matchup,” Bochy said. “I’m sure these two have gone against each other a few times. Two experienced guys that have pitched a lot of important games for their teams. It’s going to be an exciting series, to have these two guys going in the first game, I look forward to it.”

Wainwright’s teams have gotten the better of Cueto’s in those matchups, as the Cardinals righty has posted a 1.71 ERA with a 2-1 record. (Cueto was a victim of a couple bad-luck losses, posting a 1.42 ERA in their matchups.)

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