Cards turn to ace Wainwright in matchup with Giants

( - The St. Louis Cardinals will have an ace up their sleeve when they resume a four-game series Friday night with the San Francisco Giants at Busch Stadium.

Adam Wainwright gets the nod for the Cardinals, who are 9-2 in his 11 starts this season. Wainwright is aiming to become the first National League pitcher with nine wins and hasn't allowed a run in his last 20 innings pitched. He tossed a one-hit shutout versus Arizona on May 20, then tied his career high with 12 strikeouts over eight scoreless innings in Sunday's 4-0 win at Cincinnati.

"I've never felt like this," Wainwright said afterward. "That's part of the evolution of me. I expected to get better as I got older, a little wiser. I saw (Chris Carpenter) do that. Now that I'm over 30 years old, I don't think there's any reason for me to start to decline."

Wainwright has six starts this season of at least seven innings and no runs allowed, is first in the major leagues with a 1.67 earned run average and third in the NL with 77 K's. The right-hander, who is 8-2 on the season, went 2-0 against the Giants last season and has a 4-4 mark with a 2.70 ERA in 10 career games (8 starts) in this series.

The Cardinals could use a lift from Wainwright and have lost two straight and three of four games to start a nine-game homestand. They dropped two of three to the New York Yankees and suffered a 6-5 loss versus the Giants Thursday.

San Francisco took advantage of St. Louis' mistakes and posted a three-run eighth inning. The Cardinals cut it to one at 6-5 with a run in the ninth, but couldn't pull off the comeback. Allen Craig homered and was one of three players to finish with two hits for the Cardinals, who are still 10-5 in their last 15 tries and blew a chance to give starting pitcher Jaime Garcia a win.

Garcia allowed three runs in seven innings with seven strikeouts and no walks, but Carlos Martinez was reached for the next three runs and failed to back up home plate when the Giants made their rally. The Cardinals led 4-3 after seven innings before the Giants surged ahead in the eighth.

Gregor Blanco started the inning with a single and after pinch-hitter Tyler Colvin popped out, Blanco stole second. Angel Pagan then singled into center and Blanco originally held up at third. Martinez attempted to cut off Peter Bourjos' throw from center, but the ball glanced off his glove and then darted past catcher Yadier Molina, allowing Blanco to score the tying run.

"He was in the wrong spot and it ended up hurting," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

The Giants have won three in a row and six of their last seven games, and the NL West leaders have the best record in baseball at 35-19. They're 6 1/2 games ahead of both Colorado and Los Angeles in the division.

Pablo Sandoval homered and Michael Morse went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBI. Blanco added three hits, an RBI and scored a run for the Giants.

Javier Lopez got the final two outs in the seventh for the win in relief of starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong. Vogelsong allowed four runs and seven hits in 6 1/3 innings and Sergio Romo worked around two hits and a run for his 17th save in the ninth inning.

"It's a big win," Vogelsong said. "Not only that, you want to win the first game of a series. Hopefully this gives us a little emotional lift for tomorrow and the rest of the series. Big team win tonight. A lot of guys did a lot of good things."

The Giants will also visit Cincinnati on this road trip.

Madison Bumgarner will handle pitching duties for San Francisco Friday and he is 6-3 with a 3.15 ERA and one complete game in 11 appearances. Bumgarner has allowed three runs or fewer in eight of his 11 starts, and has won his last four decisions, including Sunday's 8-1 win over Minnesota in which he fanned 10 batters and allowed one run in seven innings.

The left-handed Bumgarner has a 2.53 ERA in his current unbeaten streak. He has lost each of his past three starts against the Cardinals, going 0-3 with a 5.59 ERA in that time, and is 2-3 with a 4.32 ERA in five career outings in this series.

St. Louis and San Francisco are meeting for the first time this season and the Cardinals took four of six matchups in 2013.