The champions of the three of the last four World Series begin a four-game series in St. Louis on Thursday. If the first third of the 2014 season is any indication, this long set could be a preview of a postseason matchup come October.
The Giants arrive in St. Louis boasting the Majors' best record at 34-19. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have won nine of their last 13 games and are 29-24, gaining ground on National League Central-leading Milwaukee.
The Giants will send Ryan Vogelsong to the mound; the Cardinals will oppose him with lefty Jaime Garcia.
Throughout his 10-year career, St. Louis has been unkind to Vogelsong.
The 36-year-old Vogelsong has struggled mightily in his seven career starts against the Cardinals, going 1-5 with a 7.08 ERA.
The majority of that damage has been inflicted away from Busch Stadium, though. Inside Busch, Vogelsong is 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA in two career starts in the park.
The righty allowed just three hits in seven scoreless innings during his last start at Busch Stadium, on Aug. 8, 2012. The Giants hope for a similar result Thursday night when Vogelsong takes the mound.
Vogelsong initially struggled this season, surrendering four runs or more in three of his first four starts. After his fourth start on April 21, the righty's ERA was 7.71.
The ERA has been on a steady decline since, as Vogelsong has dominated in his last six starts, allowing one run or fewer in five of them, including 13 2/3 scoreless innings over his last two starts to lower his ERA to 3.20.
Garcia will be making his third start since returning from a year-long recovery from shoulder surgery. He pitched well in his first two starts but has given up some hard contact. That efficiency has largely been the result of Garcia pitching over the plate.
"He needs to be aggressive in the zone and trust his defense behind him," manager Mike Matheny said.
Added Garcia: "I need to do a better job when I get ahead in the count. I need to be able to execute better with two strikes, especially."
Giants: Sandoval remains white-hot
Pablo Sandoval's hot streak continued Wednesday afternoon.
With an RBI single, Sandoval extended his career-best RBI streak to eight games, the most since J.T Snow did the same from April 8-18, 2003.
"Pablo's been the guy that's really come through for us," manager Bruce Bochy said. "The whole lineup we're getting contributions, but he seems like he's in such a good zone right now and he's the guy you want up there with men on base."
Sandoval has driven in 18 runs in his last 17 games and has raised his batting average 79 points from .167 to his current .246 in his last 21 games.
"When good hitters get in a zone, they're fun to watch," Bochy said.
Cardinals: Adams expected back in St. Louis lineup
Matt Adams was out of the lineup Wednesday night due to left hamstring tightness -- he struck out as a pinch-hitter in the ninth -- but the big lefty hopes to return to the lineup for Thursday's game. Adams leads the NL with 21 multi-hit games and ranks fifth in the NL with a .325 batting average.
"It's something we feel we can a little ahead of here if we're just a little cautious," Matheny said.
Added Adams: "I feel like I could play today. It's just precautionary."
• San Francisco starting pitchers haven't been kind to opposing hitters lately. Giants starters have allowed just 11 earned runs in their last 55 2/3 innings during the team's last 10 games. Giants starters have allowed just 50 earned runs in 154 1/3 innings in May.
• After a scheduled day off Wednesday, shortstop Jhonny Peralta -- who also made an appearance as a pinch-hitter -- is expected back in the lineup Thursday for the Cardinals.
Ryan Hood is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.