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NLCS Preview: Cardinals vs. Giants

Oct 14, 2012, 11:39 AM EDT

pence getty Getty Images

You can’t predict baseball, but you can at least lay out the parameters. So let’s take a look at what the Cardinals and Giants have in store for us in the National League Championship Series.

The Teams

St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Francisco Giants

The Matchups

Game 1 Sunday in San Francisco: Lance Lynn vs. Madison Bumgarner
Game 2 Monday in San Francisco: Chris Carpenter vs. Ryan Vogelsong
Game 3 Wednesday in St. Louis: Kyle Lohse vs. Matt Cain
Game 4 Thursday in St. Louis: Adam Wainwright vs. Tim Lincecum or Barry Zito
Game 5 (if necessary) Friday in St. Louis
Game 6 (if necessary) Sunday in San Francisco
Game 7 (if necessary) Monday in San Francisco

Analysis: These two organizations typically feature talented starting rotations, and the names here are certainly well known. But neither side is operating at 100 percent at the moment. Lynn faded down the stretch during the regular season after being named to the National League All-Star roster and allowed Jayson Werth‘s walkoff home run as a reliever in Game 4 of the NLDS on Thursday. Bumgarner began showing signs of fatigue in late August and got shelled by the Reds in his lone NLDS outing. Carpenter pitched effectively against the Nationals last round but isn’t anywhere near full strength after making just three starts during the regular season due to thoracic outlet syndrome. Vogelsong had a 6.75 ERA after August 8.

Numbers can be thrown out the window this time of year, but fatigue is a very real concern in mid-October. And both sides would appear to be dealing with it after scratch-and-claw regular seasons.

The Storylines

  • The clubs played six times throughout the summer and split the meetings three games apiece.
  • Will the Giants regret not inviting Melky Cabrera back to their roster? The 28-year-old impending free agent outfielder would have been eligible to return from his PED suspension for Game 1 of the NLCS, but the club told him in late September to not even bother working out.
  • The return of Carlos Beltran to AT&T Park should get plenty of play on the FOX broadcasts. He finished the 2011 season with the Giants after a deadline trade that sent top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler over to the Mets. Beltran preformed well, but the Giants wound up missing the playoffs. And now he is killing it for the opposition. We would expect some boos out in San Fran.
  • This NLCS pits two of the best all-around catchers in baseball against each other. Buster Posey, MVP hopeful, registered a superb .336/.408/.549 batting line with 24 home runs and 103 RBI in 148 games during the regular season. Yadier Molina, also an MVP candidate in the National League, hit .315/.373/.501 with 22 homers and 76 RBI in 138 games. “Yadi” is generally regarded — and the stats do back this up — as the best defensive catcher in Major League Baseball.
  • The series also boasts two of the top defensive center fielders in MLB in Angel Pagan and Jon Jay.
  • The Cardinals scored the fifth-most runs in the big leagues this season and finished with the sixth-best OPS. The Giants ranked 12th overall in runs scored and had only the 14th-highest OPS.
  • Hunter Pence has become an emotional leader on this Giants team, but he batted just .219/.287/.384 in 248 plate appearances after being acquired from the Phillies on July 31 and went 4-for-20 with no extra-base hits in the NLDS. San Francisco would love for him to get hot.
  • The Giants’ bullpen is loaded with high quality arms, but the same can now be said for the Cardinals. Trevor Rosenthal and Joe Kelly have emerged into reliable young flame-throwers and Jason Motte is no stranger to postseason save opportunities. Shelby Miller will also likely get some use.

Prediction

The Cardinals are far more loaded offensively than the Giants, boasting five 20-plus homer bats. And while power can be a fickle thing in a seven-game postseason series, it’s hard to bet against the more potent offensive team when the pitching matchups don’t sway convincingly in one direction.

CARDINALS WIN THE SERIES 4-2

  1. stlouis1baseball - Oct 14, 2012 at 11:51 AM

    I fully expect a very competitive series that goes the full seven games. Go Cardinals!

    • Old Gator - Oct 14, 2012 at 11:59 AM

      If Matt Cain shows up, I agree. If his evil twin from the second half – you know, when he fell asleep next to that odd looking seed pod – shows up instead, the bet is off.

    • sailcat54 - Oct 14, 2012 at 1:30 PM

      The Giants have strong bats, good gloves, good pitching, and a whole lotta heart. They were underestimated in every series in 2010 and the same is happening this year. Let the opposition learn the hard way!

      Go Giants!

      • blacksables - Oct 14, 2012 at 1:57 PM

        You mean like the Cardinals last year? And this year?

      • sailcat54 - Oct 15, 2012 at 11:04 PM

        The Cardinals are favored in this series yet you are saying they are being underestimated? Do you actually read the articles under which you post your comments?

  2. 78mu - Oct 14, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    I just hope the Cardinals don’t have to keep relying on Descalso and Kozma to come up with the big hits. How much longer can they keep imitating Cal Ripken and Roberto Alomar?

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 14, 2012 at 12:09 PM

      I hear you 78. Love the Ripken/Alomar reference. hahaha!

    • natstowngreg - Oct 14, 2012 at 1:00 PM

      That may be the most galling thing about Friday night. Give up the key hits to Beltran, Holliday and Craig, still hurts, but you tip your cap to them. Give them up tp Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma, cry a lot.

      Still, this is what happens in the playoffs. Good players slump, lesser players step up.

      Good luck to both teams.

    • blacksables - Oct 14, 2012 at 1:58 PM

      Its more Brian Doyle / Buddy Biancalana. And they can ride it all the way to a repeat.

  3. Brian Donohue - Oct 14, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    Lots of champion Giants in SF today. Current champ Giants (from, uh, some other sport) play in SF followed by 2010 champ Giants. No word yet on whether Eli could step in if MadBum falters…

  4. dioalice - Oct 14, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    Agree with both comments above. The Cardinals will need to get some clutch hitting from both Molina and Holliday. Until the unbelievable 9th inning in Washington, the Cardinals were 1 for 11 with RISP. They must get the runs when they are there for the taking…

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 14, 2012 at 12:08 PM

      Yeah…you definitely have to take advantage w/ ducks on the pond.
      Holliday and Molina are both waaay over due. I look for them to bust out this series.

  5. jkcalhoun - Oct 14, 2012 at 12:08 PM

    The Giants hit more than twice as many homers on the road this year as they did at home. You’d still have to give the edge to the Cardinals in power hitting, but the two teams look a lot more evenly matched offensively when park effects are taken into consideration.

  6. crisisjunky - Oct 14, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    Neither article nor reply (so far) has mentioned the 800# Wrench in the room.
    The obvious crux in this pitching dominated conversation, there is just no stopping this guy.
    He will get especially good looks at Bumdy-Gee’s spinning meatballs coming in from the left.

    • seeingwhatsticks - Oct 14, 2012 at 1:20 PM

      2012 Splits
      Bumgarner vs RHB: 3.60 K:BB, .241/.294/.401/.694
      Bumgarner vs LHB: 5.22 K:BB, .208/.247/.333/.581

      Career Splits
      Bumgarner vs RHB: 3.51 K:BB, .259/.307/.400/.707
      Bumgarner vs LHB: 5.45 K:BB, .226/.268/.334/.602

      RHB do better but they still don’t do very well, and the split isn’t all that wide given the fact that for 2012 and for his career Bumgarner has faced 3-4x as many RHB as LHB. Bumgarner has allowed 40 HR to RHB in 1730 career PA.

  7. beerjunkie69 - Oct 14, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    GO CARDINALS!!

  8. doubleogator - Oct 14, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    Lincecum will put the Giants over the top….he’s back!

  9. Marty - Oct 14, 2012 at 12:39 PM

    I wonder what Alfonso Soriano is doing today.

    • crisisjunky - Oct 14, 2012 at 1:17 PM

      searching the ivy for his iphone

      • Marty - Oct 14, 2012 at 3:32 PM

        He must be expecting a call from a contender.

  10. johnjb2315 - Oct 14, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    Lets go CARDINALS, Jon jay goes yard today

  11. stex52 - Oct 14, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    This looks to be a very good series. I know who I hope comes out the winner, but if it takes a lot of games, all the more fun.

  12. cintiphil - Oct 14, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    Both of these teams handled the Reds handily esp the Giants in post season, so I am not commenting strongly. After sweeping the birds in Cinti, the Reds didn’t do much with them, losing 4 out of 6. And the playoffs went bad for the Reds. So, I want to stay neutral and say that the Cards beat us with hitting and some good pitching and the Giants beat us mostly with some fortunate bounces of the ball. So on balance, I think the birds will win, but in 7 games, by the skin of their teeth. However if they play their same stellar defense (or lack of same) as they played in our series, they will go down in 7 or less.

    And, I really don’t care who wins this match, but I will be watching!

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