Randal Grichuk was drafted one spot before Mike Trout six years ago. While he hasn't become one of the game's best players, he's blossoming into a star in his own right for the St. Louis Cardinals.
He and St. Louis' dominant pitching staff seek a fourth straight victory Saturday night against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
The Los Angeles Angels selected Grichuk 24th overall in 2009 and picked Trout next. They dealt Grichuk, along with Peter Bourjos, to St. Louis after the 2013 season in exchange for Fernando Salas and David Freese, a deal that's looking better for the Cardinals by the day.
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Grichuk, who never posted a minor league OPS better than .805 for a season at a level above Class-A, currently leads all rookies with at least 50 games played with a .913 OPS and is batting .350 with seven homers, seven doubles and 19 RBIs in his last 20 games.
Freese has hit .252 with a .389 slugging percentage since the deal after posting .286 and .427 marks over five seasons for St. Louis, while Salas owns a 4.35 ERA in 48 relief appearances this year.
Grichuk had a three-run shot during a six-run fifth inning in Friday's 6-0 win against the Brewers. Matt Carpenter also stayed locked in, doubling twice to improve his average to .381 over the last 11 games.
The Cardinals (70-39) have been able to get by without big innings given their excellence on the mound. They've allowed eight runs in the last five games with Friday being their second straight shutout. The bullpen has been especially impressive, allowing one run and six hits over 19 innings in the last five contests, and posting a 1.26 ERA since July 21.
"They are pitching well and you know it's going to be a low-scoring game for you to win," Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell said.
Jaime Garcia (3-4, 1.98 ERA) looks to continue the staff's run after limiting Colorado to one run and two hits over five-plus innings in a 3-2 victory on Sunday, though he also yielded four walks.
He's walked six over 11 innings in two games since returning from a strained groin, an uncharacteristic number for a player who averaged 1.3 walks per nine innings in seven starts before the injury.
Garcia was a tough-luck loser against Milwaukee on June 1, allowing one run and three hits over seven innings in a 1-0 defeat. He's still 6-4 with a 2.81 ERA in 13 career starts in the series, however.
The Brewers (47-64) had scored 22 runs while winning three straight before being stifled Friday. Ryan Braun was yanked after seven innings for the second time in a lopsided loss in five days, though he extended his hitting streak to six games with a single. He's hitting .205 with six strikeouts in 39 at-bats against Garcia.
Rookie Shane Peterson is batting .423 in his last eight games after going 3 for 4.
Wily Peralta, (2-6, 4.55) is also making his third start since coming back from injury. He'll be looking to bounce back from his toughest outing of the season, having given up six runs, eight hits and three walks over 3 1-3 innings in a 13-5 loss to San Diego on Monday.
"I'm hoping it's just a one-time thing," Counsell said.
Peralta is 4-6 with a 4.43 ERA in 11 starts against St. Louis, including an 0-3 mark in the last four meetings while receiving four runs of support in 24 innings.
Carpenter is batting .444 off Peralta in 27 at-bats, while Jason Heyward is 6 for 14.