Game 7 battle favors Giants over Cardinals

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With their backs against the wall, the Giants have been unstoppable this month, winning five straight elimination games against the Reds and Cardinals.

It’s an impressive streak, no doubt. The Cardinals would likely be the first to admit it. After all, they’re riding a streak of six straight wins in elimination games themselves.

Now one of those streaks is bound to come to an end on Monday. Or perhaps Tuesday, since the forecast for Monday evening is pretty grim.

The Giants’ key for Game 7 is obvious: they need ace Matt Cain to come out and match the starts put up by Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong in the last two games. Cain’s looked more like a No. 3 than a No. 1 so far this month, giving up exactly three runs in all three of his starts. It’s left him 1-2 with a 4.67 ERA. That’s quite a change from the last two months of the season, when Cain allowed two runs or fewer in 10 of 12 outings.

The Cardinals probably don’t need quite so much from fellow 16-game winner Kyle Lohse, not with Trevor Rosenthal and Jason Motte both ready to pitch up two innings in relief. Lohse, though, is definitely the guy they want out there. He’s 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA in his three postseason starts. He outdueled Cain in Wednesday’s Game 3, a 3-1 victory for the Cardinals in St. Louis.

The guess here is that Cain is due. The same goes for likely NL MVP Buster Posey. And while the Giants’ best relievers don’t match Cardinals’ huge arms, they’ve been plenty effective to date.

Of course, everyone who has come away doubting Lohse lately has been made to look foolish. At the very least, he always keeps it close. The Cardinals are 23-13 in Lohse’s starts this year. Of the 13 losses, nine were by one run, three were by two runs and one was by three runs (May 30 against the Braves).

Report: Twins sign Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal

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The Twins have reportedly signed free agent shortstop Erick Aybar to a minor-league deal, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune reported Friday. FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman adds that the deal comes with a potential $1.25 million if Aybar reaches the majors, with additional incentives based on plate appearances. He’ll be able to opt out on March 27. The team has yet to confirm the signing.

Aybar, 34, is now four years removed from his career year in 2014. He’s been in a state of steady decline since then, slashing just .234/.300/.348 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases over 370 plate appearances for the Padres in 2017. His poor performance wasn’t helped by a fractured left foot, either, which cost him almost six weeks on the disabled list.

Still, the Twins see something promising in the veteran infielder, and reportedly intend to use him as another utility option this spring. Per Neal, Aybar will join fellow backup infielders Eduardo Escobar and Ehire Adrianza and may even (temporarily) take over for Miguel Sano at third base if Sano isn’t able to shape up for the role by Opening Day.