With the regular season winding down and needing to gain ground in the NL wild card race, the San Francisco Giants must improve their play away from home.
They’ll have 10 chances to do that when they start their final road trip of the regular season with a matchup against the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Friday.
San Francisco (74-72) starts play 2 1/2 games behind San Diego for the wild card and three in back of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West lead. The Giants, though, are just 32-39 away from AT&T Park.
After a three-game series with the Cardinals (77-68), San Francisco will play three at Colorado and four in Milwaukee before wrapping up the regular season with a pair of three-game series at home against Arizona and the Dodgers.
“It definitely is (exciting) to be doing this now because every game counts,” Giants pitcher Matt Cain said after allowing two hits and striking out eight in eight innings of a 5-0 win over Colorado on Thursday. “Every game counted before, but it seems like now everybody is really watching the scoreboard.
“We’re watching what everybody’s doing, and every win has an effect right now.”
Barry Bonds went 1-for-3 in the win, one day after hitting his 732nd homer. The seven-time NL MVP has 24 homers this season and needs one more to tie Hank Aaron’s NL record.
Aaron hit the final 22 of his 755 homers in the AL with Milwaukee in 1975-76.
Bonds’ contract expires at the end of the season, and said he’s not sure if he will return to continue chasing Aaron’s mark.
“It’s going to be nice to sit down and talk with my family after the season because they’re the ones who are wishy-washy about it,” Bonds said. “I go back and forth.”
Bonds, who’s homered in 35 ballparks during his career, also is making his first trip to St. Louis’ new $365 million facility. He hit 13 homers in 103 games at old Busch Stadium.
Jason Schmidt (11-8, 3.45 ERA), who starts the opener for the Giants, has struggled on the road this season. In 14 starts, the right-hander has a 3.66 ERA and has given up only two homers in his last six outings but is just 4-7.
He reached double-digits in strikeouts for the fifth time this season, recording 10 on Saturday in a 5-4, 11-inning loss to the Padres. He’s 8-8 with a 3.06 ERA and .218 opponent batting average in 18 career starts against St. Louis.
Though they were idle Thursday, the Cardinals (77-68) reduced their magic number for clinching the NL Central to 12 after Cincinnati’s 4-2 loss to San Diego.
Slugger Albert Pujols needs one homer to tie his career high. Pujols, who hit 46 in 2004 in leading the Cardinals to the World Series, is hitting just .118 (2-for-17) in his career against Schmidt.
Jeff Suppan (11-7, 4.25 ERA), who will oppose Schmidt, has allowed just one earned run in his last 27 2-3 innings covering four starts. Against Arizona on Sunday, the right-hander gave up four runs—none earned—in 5 1-3 innings, but didn’t get a decision in St. Louis’ 9-7 loss.
“We mucked a couple of fundamental plays,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. “It’s just executing the plays. Usually we do it good; we didn’t do it good today.”
Suppan is 2-4 with a 5.15 ERA in six career starts versus San Francisco.