Cardinals and Giants Meet Again in NLCS

Teams loaded with seasoned veterans meet for NL pennant

Game 1         Oct. 11         8:00  at St. Louis        

Game 2         Oct. 12         8:00  at St. Louis        

Game 3         Oct. 14         4:00  at San Francisco                          

Game 4         Oct. 15         8:00  at San Francisco                          

Game 5*         Oct. 16         8:00 at San Francisco        

Game 6*         Oct. 18         4:00  at St. Louis        

Game 7*         Oct. 19        7:30  at St. Louis        

*If necessary

 

If you think you’ve seen this movie before, well, you’re right. This is the third time that the Giants and Cardinals have met in the NLCS since 2002 and the fourth overall. Despite some talk of Adam Wainwright not being completely healthy, he will be St. Louis’ Game 1 starter opposite Madison Bumgarner. Wainwright was tagged pretty hard by the Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS, while Bumgarner has been solid in his two postseason starts. Rising star Lance Lynn of the Cardinals faces the veteran Jake Peavey in Game 2. Tim Hudson and John Lackey will be the Game 3 starters. Factor in Shelby Miller for St. Louis and Ryan Vogelsong for the Giants in Game 4, and the Cardinals have an advantage in starting pitching.

 

Cardinals Advantage

The Cardinals’ patient approach at the plate makes pitchers work, and Peavy and Hudson don’t really pitch deep into games anyway, so getting to those two pitchers early could spell doom for the Giants. In three postseason starts against St. Louis, Peavy is carrying a 9.88 ERA. Granted, two of those starts came in 2005-06 when names like Pujols, Edmonds and Rolen were anchoring the Cardinals, but last season the Cardinals knocked him out after four innings. The Cardinals’ bench is proven in the postseason, so Mike Matheny will feel comfortable making double-switches, in the middle innings if necessary. The Giants really don’t have that luxury.

 

Giants Advantage

Manager Bruce Bochy rarely gets outmanaged from a preparation standpoint or during the in-game chess match. If Wainwright and Bumgarner perform as they have recently, the Giants can steal Game 1 and home-field advantage. If the Cardinals win Game 1, the series could be over quickly.

 

Key Players

Tim Lincecum may be called on to bail out struggling starting pitchers, much like he was a few years ago. In 2010, he threw 17.2 innings in the postseason and allowed just nine hits and five walks. However, the Cardinals touched him for four runs in 6.2 innings in the NLCS…The Cardinals acquired pitcher John Lackey for moments like this. He is likely the Cardinals’ pitcher for Games 3 and 7 should the series go that far. At any rate, he will be on the mound for at least one critical game on the road in San Francisco...Hunter Pence, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval will be asked to carry the Giants’ lineup, and are all three capable. But the free-swinging approach by Pence and Sandoval works to the advantage of the Cardinals’ pitchers…Leadoff hitter Matt Carpenter struggled for much of the postseason last year, but knocked around Dodgers’ pitchers at a .375 clip in the NLDS. He is both a table-setter for Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta and Matt Adams, as well as a run producer himself.

 

Key Stats

The Cardinals are a relatively home-grown team with 17 of the 25 players active for the NLDS drafted and developed by the Redbirds. An 18th, Adam Wainwright, is about half-developed by St. Louis. He spent two seasons in the Cardinals’ system after his first four professional seasons were spent with Atlanta…The Giants have 12 home-grown players on their postseason roster…St. Louis second baseman Kolten Wong was drafted seven spots ahead of Giants second baseman Joe Panik in the first round in 2011…This marks the fourth consecutive season that the Cardinals have played in the NLCS. The Braves with five in a row from 1995-99 and the Yankees with four from 1998-2001 are the only teams to match that streak in the wild card era…The Giants took four of seven in the season series this year, winning three of four in St. Louis. The two teams did not meet in the second half.

 

Prediction: Cardinals in 6

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