Young, effective pitchers square off on Monday Night Baseball

AP Images

The San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals -- who have faced off in the National League Championship Series two out of the past three seasons -- renew acquaintances Monday night, when they open a three-game series in St. Louis.

Here are some of the key storylines for Monday night's game (8 ET, ESPN/WatchESPN):

Giants notes

The Giants are 8-7 in August and have dropped 2.5 games behind the first-place Dodgers in the National League West standings. Teams on the Giants’ remaining schedule have a .517 winning percentage, compared to .498 for the Dodgers’ remaining opponents.

The Giants average 4.41 runs per game, eighth in the major leagues, with a balanced offense that doesn’t rely on the home run. Their .271 batting average is best in baseball, and their .742 OPS ranks sixth.

Chris Heston (11-7) is the Giants’ scheduled starter. On June 9 against the Mets, Heston became the 22nd rookie since 1900 to throw a no-hitter, the first since Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox in 2007.

In his 11 starts since the no-hitter, Heston is 5-3 with a 2.96 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. He ranks eighth in the National League in ground-ball percentage (55 percent).

In 11 of Heston's 23 starts this season, he allowed one or zero runs.

Cardinals notes

The Cardinals, who lost in the NLCS in 2012 and 2014 to the eventual World Series-champion Giants, are scheduled to start Michael Wacha (14-4).

Wacha has a chance Monday to be the first pitcher in the major leagues to reach 15 wins this season. The Elias Sports Bureau notes that two Cardinals pitchers have been the first in the major leagues to reach 15 wins in a season: Dizzy Dean (in 1934, 1935 and 1936) and Joaquin Andujar (1984 and 1985).

Wacha, who won’t turn 25 until July 1, 2016, is among four pitchers younger than 25 who rank among baseball’s top 15 in victories. Gerrit Cole (14 wins), Carlos Martinez (12) and Drew Hutchison (12) are the others.

Posey reliable, while Duffy delivers

Buster Posey is having another MVP-caliber season for the Giants.

He is tied for fifth in the National League in wins above replacement (5.7) and ranks fourth in batting average (.327) and eighth in OPS (.880).

A big part of Posey’s value is how he makes his pitchers look good. Baseball Prospectus credits him with 12.8 framing runs added (second in the major leagues), and Baseball Info Solutions credits him with seven strike-zone runs saved (tied for third in the majors).

Rookie Matt Duffy, who took over at third base after Pablo Sandoval signed a free-agent contract with the Red Sox, has been among the most productive offensive players at his position.

Among National League third basemen with at least 350 plate appearances, he is first in batting average (.323) and second in OPS (.865).

Quick hitters

Cardinals rookie Randal Grichuk, among the National League’s best power hitters since he stepped into the spot vacated by Matt Holliday (leg injury) on June 9, suffered an elbow injury Sunday and was scheduled to have it examined.

The Giants are second in defensive runs saved in the National League at plus-34, including plus-eight with a defensive shift, which ranks fifth in the league. The Cardinals are fifth in the National League in DRS at plus-24, none coming with a shift on.

The Cardinals are second in the majors with 33 comeback wins this season, one fewer than the Pirates.