August 15: D-backs (58-58) @ Cardinals (63-53)

Jenifer Langosch/MLB.com

The Cardinals will be opposed by Arizona’s Joe Saunders tonight, and while most of the Cardinals players’ track records against the lefty aren’t lengthy, the small sample size of results is encouraging. Some numbers against him: Carlos Beltran (5-for-10), Allen Craig (1-for-2), David Freese (1-for-2) and Rafael Furcal (4-for-11).

Yadier Molina is 2-for-4 against Saunders, but he is won’t be playing tonight because of back tightness. The issue, Molina said this afternoon, first bothered him while catching Joe Kelly’s pregame bullpen session on Tuesday. Molina played with his back tight throughout the game, but the choice was made to have him sit on Wednesday when the tightness did not improve.

Molina also disclosed that before the back issue arose, he had been dealing with some left side discomfort for a few weeks. It was nothing troublesome enough to warrant time off, but perhaps there is a correlation between the two issues. Molina is receiving treatment, though it’s hard for him to gauge how long this back tightness could be an issue.

Also of note: Jaime Garcia has rejoined the Cardinals, but no plans have been announced yet about how the Cardinals will insert him back into the rotation. Sunday’s starter against the Pirates remains listed as TBA. That announcement could come as early as post-game tonight, or it will come tomorrow.

UPDATE: Since my original posting, the Cardinals have made their rotation announcement. Garcia will start against the Pirates on Sunday. Joe Kelly will move to the bullpen. At the earliest, Kelly would be available out of the ‘pen on Saturday. The Cardinals will not make a roster move to add Garcia (which would mean also subtracting a reliever) until after Saturday’s game.

And then there’s this: Earlier this afternoon, Major League Baseball announced an immediate 50-game suspension for Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera, who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Cabrera took responsibility for taking a banned substance, which is refreshing. But it doesn’t diminish the fact that the Giants’ playoff aspirations will take a hit. Cabrera is batting .346 this season, which ranks second-best in the National League.

Cabrera’s absence for the rest of the regular season certainly can’t hurt the Cardinals’ chances at a playoff spot. The Giants and Dodgers are currently tied for first place in the National League West. Both have one more win than the Cardinals, who are likely to be competing for a Wild Card spot against whoever falls out of that division lead. It will be intriguing to see the impact (or lack thereof) of Cabrera’s absence.

Speaking of the Wild Card, the Cardinals are now only one game back of the Pirates, who are currently positioned as the second Wild Card team. A win by St. Louis tonight, coupled with a Pittsburgh loss, would move St. Louis into a tie for second place in the NL Central. The Cards haven’t been in second since June 27.

CARDINALS LINEUP:

  1. Jon Jay (CF)
  2. Allen Craig (1B)
  3. Matt Holliday (LF)
  4. Carlos Beltran (RF)
  5. David Freese (3B)
  6. Daniel Descalso (2B)
  7. Tony Cruz (C)
  8. Rafael Furcal (SS)
  9. Adam Wainwright (RHP)

D-BACKS LINEUP:

  1. Stephen Drew (SS)
  2. Aaron Hill (2B)
  3. Jason Kubel (LF)
  4. Paul Goldschmidt (1B)
  5. Justin Upton (RF)
  6. Miguel Montero (C)
  7. Chris Johnson (3B)
  8. Chris Young (CF)
  9. Joe Saunders (LHP)

Division standings are here. Wild card standings are here.

Follow me on Twitter: @LangoschMLB

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