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Cardinals face Giants while in hot pursuit of playoff spot

SAN FRANCISCO -- The playoff race is heating up for the St. Louis Cardinals.

For the San Francisco Giants, too ... and they're not even in it.

The Cardinals and Giants endured the hottest night game ever at AT&T Park on Friday, with the prospects of it getting even hotter when the clubs meet again Saturday afternoon.

Two hot pitchers, regardless of the weather, are scheduled to duel when Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn (10-6, 3.14) hooks up with Giants righty Chris Stratton (2-3, 3.82).

Pitching was not at a premium in 93-degree heat Friday night when the Cardinals torched nine Giants relievers for nine runs and 11 hits in a come-from-behind, 11-6 victory.

St. Louis has won the first two games of the series.

The teams combined in the hot weather for 26 hits.

Stratton has been brilliant in his last three starts, allowing just two runs in 18 2/3 innings. He has struck out 21 over that stretch.

The 27-year-old has never faced the Cardinals.

Stratton can only hope for the type of support the Giants provided right-hander Johnny Cueto on Friday night. Brandon Crawford had a home run and two doubles, Buster Posey also collected three hits and Hunter Pence smacked a two-run triple, helping the Giants take a 5-2 lead against Cardinals starter Jack Flaherty, who was making his major-league debut.

But the roof caved in on the Giants shortly after manager Bruce Bochy went to his bullpen in the sixth inning for the first of nine times.

"I can't recall one that was as tough for us as tonight," Bochy said of the bullpen blowup. "You look at the extra-base hits. I think they had six in the last three innings against our set-up guys and our closer. You're probably not going to win a ballgame like that, and that's what happened."

It'll be up to Lynn to deal with Crawford on Saturday, when the daytime temperature record for an AT&T game (97 degrees) is very much in danger. It was well over 100 degrees, rare for San Francisco, much of the day Friday.

The 30-year-old has gone 4-1 with a 2.13 ERA in 11 starts since July 1.

Lynn is just 1-4 with a 4.76 ERA in five career starts against the Giants.

Two strikeout milestones are well within Lynn's reach today.

His first strikeout will tie him with right-hander Larry Jackson (899) for 10th place on the Cardinals' career list.

A second would make him the 10th Cardinal to reach 900.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, a former Giant who is quite familiar with cold nights in San Francisco, admitted he enjoyed the sweltering conditions.

"Really?" he questioned when informed of the record game-starting temperature. "In the first inning, we were all talking about how beautiful it was."

The ending was a thing of beauty for the Cardinals as well. They smacked four straight hits off Giants closer Sam Dyson to break a 5-5 tie in the ninth inning, then saw Stephen Piscotty cap a six-run explosion with a two-run homer.

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