Aurilia Providing Giant Spark

Even with Barry Bonds grabbing the headlines, Rich Aurilia has been the San Francisco Giants' offensive spark plug this season.

The veteran infielder looks to lead the Giants to a two-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals when they wrap up their series Thursday afternoon at AT&T Park.

Oddsmakers have made St. Louis -1.5 point spread favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 8.5 total runs (View MLB Sports Books). Our public betting information shows that 82% of bets for this game have been placed on St. Louis -1.5 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Aurilia hit the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of Wednesday's 12th inning to lift the Giants (5-8) over the Cardinals 6-5. The first baseman had already tripled in the fifth inning to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.

He has two hits in each of his last four games and his .353 batting average leads the Giants. Aurilia is also batting .391 (18-for-46) with seven RBIs during his 11-game hitting streak.

Bonds, meanwhile, added his 738th career homer in the eighth inning to tie the game at 5 and move him within 17 home runs of Hank Aaron's all-time record. Bonds has four homers this season.

Right-hander Ryan Franklin became the 437th different pitcher to surrender a home run to the 42-year-old slugger, who may not play in this contest. Last season, Bonds generally sat out day games that followed night games.

"We won the game. We pitched well. The bullpen pitched well and Richie got a clutch hit. There you go," Bonds said before making his exit.

The Giants, who returned home after an eight-game road trip, have won four of their last six games after opening the season 1-6. They are trying for their first sweep of the Cardinals (6-8) since a two-game series July 7-8, 2003, also at San Francisco.

Albert Pujols hit his fourth homer of the season Wednesday night for the Cardinals, who have dropped three straight. St. Louis is off to the worst start by a defending World Series champion since the 1998 Florida Marlins opened 1-11.

Kip Wells (1-2, 2.25 ERA) will look to help St. Louis salvage a split in the series. The right-hander allowed three runs in seven innings of Saturday's 3-2 loss to Milwaukee, after giving up just two earned runs in 13 innings over his first two starts.

"More often than not, an outing like this will be sufficient to get us a victory," he told the Cardinals' official Web site.

Wells, who signed a one-year, $4 million deal as a free agent in the offseason, is 3-2 with a 2.87 ERA in five career starts against the Giants and 2-1 with a 3.26 ERA in three outings at AT&T Park.

San Francisco will counter with Noah Lowry (0-2, 2.77), who has not pitched since April 11 because of rainouts on Saturday and Sunday.

"I'll just have to get a couple of extra bullpen sessions in, to make sure I'm staying sharp," he told the Giants' official Web site.

The left-hander allowed four runs in six innings of a 4-0 loss to Greg Maddux and San Diego in his last outing. Despite losing both of his starts this season, he has allowed a total of just six earned runs in 13 innings.

Lowry has lost both of his previous starts against the Cardinals, earning a 4.85 ERA.

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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