One of baseball’s elite pitching prospects will duel one of the sport’s most accomplished veterans when the Cincinnati Reds visit the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday.

The Reds will start hard-throwing rookie Hunter Greene (3-7, 5.40 ERA) in the second game of a three-game series. The Cardinals will counter with 40-year-old Adam Wainwright (5-4, 2.73 ERA), who has 189 career victories.

Greene is coming off his best career performance. He shut out the Arizona Diamondbacks on one hit for seven innings while winning 7-0 on Monday. The one baserunner he yielded was a bunt single by the game’s first batter.

“I kept it real simple,” Greene said postgame. “Some of my past starts, I tried to do a little too much on a pitch. Tonight I just said, ‘Here it is.’ The pitches seemed to be where they needed to be. I throw too hard for them to have a comfortable at-bat.”

Had rain not shortened caused that game to be called after seven innings, Greene could have gone even deeper. He struck out eight batters, walked none and retired the last 20 batters he faced.

“That may be the best I’ve seen him pitch,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It was just a great mix of pitches. It makes for an uncomfortable at-bat when he locates his pitches. He got a lot of fly balls. He just set up his pitches really well.”

Greene took a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals on April 22. He allowed three runs on four hits and four walks in 3 1/3 innings.

The Cardinals won the series opener 2-0 on Friday to snap a three-game losing streak and climb past the Milwaukee Brewers for the National League Central lead.

“It’s early, but it’s good,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “I don’t care how early it is, you want people chasing you. You don’t want to be chasing people.”

Wainwright allowed a total of two runs over 14 innings in his past two starts. The Cardinals won both games in extra innings.

Earlier this season, Wainwright absorbed a 4-1 loss in Cincinnati. He allowed four runs on eight hits and three walks in five-plus innings.

In his career, Wainwright is 10-16 with a 5.34 ERA in 37 career appearances against the Reds, including 32 starts. The ERA is his worst against any team he has faced more than twice.

With Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson sidelined for four to six weeks due to a broken right thumb, the team promoted Chris Okey to help fill the void. Okey, 27, made his major league debut as a defensive replacement on Friday but did not get a plate appearance.

“The reports were that he’s been swinging the bat well, but he’s also handled the pitchers extremely well,” Bell said. “Having some younger guys, he has experience with those guys and they said he’s been great with handling a staff and calling a game.”

The Cardinals have reunited their outfield for this series. Left fielder Tyler O’Neill returned from a shoulder impingement earlier this week, and right field Dylan Carlson was back from a strained hamstring on Friday. Carlson went 1-for-3 in his first game since May 21.

“It feels good and I’m excited to be back because it felt like a long time,” Carlson said.

Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina sat out the Friday game with what Marmol called “soreness,” but the 39-year-old veteran is expected to catch Wainwright on Saturday.

–Field Level Media