Separated only by an intermission against the visiting Baltimore Orioles, the Cardinals and San Francisco Giants are playing what effectively is a playoff series without the bunting and October trimmings, but it comes complete with repeat appearances by starters.
In the span of 11 days, the Cardinals and the defending NL West champs will play seven games: four by the Bay, three this weekend in St. Louis.
The series is currently tied at two games each.
True to the playoff-series feel of the schedule, several pitchers will also appear for a second time in a short span against the same opponent. That will be a first for Jordan Hicks as he continues his transition from closer and reliever to starter and rotation. In each of his past two starts, Hicks has increased his pitch count and his innings from the previous one, and on Friday night at Busch Stadium the Cardinals are hopeful he can at least repeat what he did against the Giants a week ago at Oracle Park.
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In a game that Cardinals won, Hicks allowed two runs on three hits and struck out five in his 4 1/3 innings.
That's his career high for innings pitched.
At times, he had the Giants unnerved with his mix of 100-mph sinker and a changeup that he could land at 91 mph or 92 mph. In that game, he was able to operate at three different levels, featuring both a slider (80s mph) and a curveball (79 mph). He's building his mix of pitches like he's building his arm strength in these games, and that includes the changeup that is relatively new to him and slowly becoming a go-to pitch, though there is not much slow about it.
The Cardinals will face Logan Webb for a second time in this tight schedule. The right-hander leads the league with four wins, the fourth of which came against the Cardinals in San Francisco.
He allowed four runs on eight hits and got through only five innings. He also struck out seven.
Some notes from pregame:
• The right-handed Webb is a tricky matchup for shortstop and right-handed hitter Edmundo Sosa, so Brendan Donovan gets an encore performance as the starter at shortstop. His success offensively at a time when the team is looking for offense also plays into the call.
• The Cardinals intend to make a decision on Adam Wainwright's next start after Friday's game. He'll start Sunday at the earliest and go for the win record with Yadier Molina possibly on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball.
• Jack Flaherty has several bullpens in his future with increasing intensity each time. At some point, though it could be more than a week or two away, he'll face hitters in a live batting practice session that is similar to the ones in the first week of full-squad spring training.
1. Tommy Edman, 2B
2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
3. Nolan Arenado, 3B
4. Juan Yepez, DH
5. Dylan Carlson, RF
6. Tyler O'Neill, LF
7. Brendan Donovan, SS
8. Harrison Bader, CF
9. Andrew Knizner, C
P: Jordan Hicks, RHP
1. LaMonte Wade Jr., RF
2. Brandon Belt, 1B
3. Wilmer Flores, 3B
4. Joc Pederson, DH
5. Mike Yastrzemski, CF
6. Thairo Estrada, 2B
7. Brandon Crawford, SS
8. Luis Gonzalez, LF
9. Curt Casali, C
P: Logan Webb, RHP
Check back later this evening for more coverage from Busch Stadium, an update on Adam Wainwright and his next start, and an immediate game story within minutes of the final out. There will be expanded coverage in the pages of Saturday's Post-Dispatch.