Athletics-Cardinals preview

ST. LOUIS -- Which Jaime Garcia will take the mound Sunday at Busch Stadium?

Will it be the one who has been whacked for 11 runs in nine-plus innings of his last two starts, or will it be the one who lasted eight frames in each of his previous two outings?

The answer could decide if the St. Louis Cardinals will wrap up their set with the Oakland Athletics on a winning note, or if they'll head for a critical nine-game road trip through the National League Central off a series loss to one of the American League's worst teams.

The trends point toward a good game for Garcia (10-9, 4.37 ERA). He is 34-21 in 78 career games at home with a 2.87 ERA. What's more, Oakland (56-73) has lost 16 of the last 20 games when opponents start a left-hander and its 13-21 record against lefty starters is the worst in the AL.

But the A's were able to flip the script Saturday night in a 3-2 win despite picking up just four hits, spoiling the first major league start of Alex Reyes. They scored their runs on a bases-loaded walk, a fielder's choice grounder on which the Cardinals eschewed a sure out in favor of a risky throw to the plate that was late, and a sacrifice fly.

Oakland has walked just 327 times in 129 games, but drew five walks, four against Reyes, who lasted just 4 2/3 innings as the A's ran his pitch count up to 89.

"The coaches told us their starting pitcher was pretty wild," left fielder Khris Davis said. "So I was looking for the first good pitch to put a good swing on it."

St. Louis (68-60) didn't put many good swings together after starting the fourth inning with consecutive singles. Its final 17 hitters went down in order, with perhaps two hard-hit balls total in that span.

The result was the Cardinals failed to expand their 1 1/2-game lead on Miami and Pittsburgh for the NL's second wild-card spot. What's more, the New York Mets pulled within 2 1/2 games with a victory over Philadelphia.

"We know that we have a good team," St. Louis reliever Matt Bowman said, "and that if we can keep winning, everything will take care of itself."

St. Louis will again face a pitcher with which it's unfamiliar in right-hander Andrew Triggs (0-1, 4.38 ERA). His last outing was Monday night against Cleveland, which he blanked for six innings on just three hits and a walk, fanning six.

But Triggs settled for a no-decision when the offense couldn't solve Carlos Carrasco and Oakland eventually lost 1-0.

Triggs, who has been promoted and outrighted a whopping eight times this year, is one of three former relievers who have been forced into a starting role due to a spate of injuries that have decimated the rotation.

"You don't expect that many injuries in your rotation," A's manager Bob Melvin said, "but guys have been getting opportunities and making the most of them."

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