for this game

Royals, Cards square off in I-70 Series

Jun 12, 2015 - 2:18 PM ( - A couple of division leaders are set to square off at Busch Stadium on Friday night when the St. Louis Cardinals entertain the Kansas City Royals in the opener of a three-game interleague series.

At the moment, St. Louis (39-21) and Kansas City (34-23) own the best two records in the majors. Known as the I-70 Series when these neighboring clubs face each other, the Royals have won six of the last eight meetings after taking two of three from the Cardinals in May. However, that series took place in Kansas City, whereas the Cardinals own the best home record of any team in baseball with a 22-7 mark at Busch Stadium.

The Royals have opened up a two-game lead over Minnesota in the American League Central and are eyeing up a fifth consecutive victory. They had Thursday off, a day after they completed a three-game road sweep of the second-place Twins.

Alex Gordon blasted a three-run home run to help Kansas City jump out to a 4-0 first-inning lead in Wednesday's eventual 7-2 triumph. Edinson Volquez improved his record to 5-4 with seven innings of one-run ball.

Meanwhile, St. Louis entered its rest day on Thursday with a 6 1/2-game cushion over Chicago and Pittsburgh in the NL Central. The Cardinals were in Colorado earlier this week and lost the first two games of that series before winning Wednesday's finale by a 4-2 margin to avoid being swept.

Carlos Martinez did it all for St. Louis in that win, as he gave up just two runs in 6 1/3 frames and also went 2-for-3 at the plate. Randal Grichuk supplied the go-ahead homer in the 8th.

Jaime Garcia draws the starting assignment for the Redbirds in Friday's opener. The southpaw boasts a solid 2.67 ERA through four starts but is just 1-3 as the offense failed to score in three of those starts. He pitched seven innings of two-run ball at Dodger Stadium last weekend, allowing six hits to go with six strikeouts in an eventual 2-0 loss.

"He hasn't had much support," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Garcia. "He's had some tough matchups, too. This was a tough one, but he answered the bell, in my opinion. He kept us right in that game, to where it was who was going to flinch first."

Garcia has not walked a batter in three starts (20 IP) since issuing five free passes in his season debut against the New York Mets on May 21. He has struggled against the Cardinals, however, sporting an 8.31 ERA in four career starts.

For Kansas City, Yordano Ventura will toe the rubber at Busch Stadium for the first time in his career. The right-hander has not earned a win since May 19 and lasted a season-low three innings in his latest start against the Texas Rangers this past Saturday. Texas tagged Ventura for two runs in the first inning and then two more in the second before he got the hook.

"It's just one of those days," said Ventura, who also walked two batters, hit another, and made a throwing error to second base. "Just going to keep working. The team needs me right now, and I'm going to be ready for my next start."

Ventura faced St. Louis in May and took the loss as he gave up four runs in seven innings, including a key two-run homer off the bat of Matt Carpenter.