NLCS Preview: There are two teams left in the National League and they just so happen to be the two teams that have dominated the NL in recent memory. The “even year” Giants are looking to advance and win the World Series for the third time in six year. The “best fans in baseball” Cardinals are also looking to get back to the promise land after making the playoffs for the third straight season under Mike Matheny.
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Moving to the seven-game series makes things a little bit tougher on both teams pitching wise, as they will have to decide who will get the ball twice in the series. The Cardinals have tabbed Adam Wainwright the starter for game one, putting all the rumors to rest that he was hurt and wouldn’t be able to make an impact in the series. The Giants haven’t officially named their game one starter, but everyone’s best guess would be Madison Bumgarner for game one Saturday in St. Louis.
Past those two guys, both teams could flip flop their order of pitchers based on matchups. Lance Lynn threw in game two of the NLDS for the Cardinals, but that could change in the NLCS. For the Giants they have a couple of veterans looking to put a stamp on this series in Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson. Both coming down to their final years in the big leagues, trying to get a ring. I also don’t want to forget to mention Tim Lincecum and Michael Wacha, who could also be seen in a big role in this series, being that it is seven games. There are a lot of possible combinations as to what both managers could do with their pitching staffs, so we will have to wait and see what is made official.
As to the series as a whole, it should be entertaining for the fans, even with not being fans of these two teams. The series doesn’t seem to be as popular with the baseball community as a whole, because of the Royals and Orioles looking to get back to the World Series for the first time in three decades. If you were going to predict this series just based on feel, my gut says the Cardinals win it. There is just something about the Cardinals in October, that gives you a feel that they can’t lose. Did anyone see them beating Clayton Kershaw twice in the same series, and for the third time in three years? I don’t think so. The feel about this team is strange, but I think there is something about them that makes them different.
The x-factor for the entire series is going to be Ryan Vogelsong. Nationals fans saw enough of him in the NLDS as he went from throwing 91 in the regular season, to finding some extra juice and pumping 95 against the Nats. He led the Giants to the series clinching victory to put the Giants in this series against the Cardinals.
He has been impressive in the postseason becoming the first pitcher to allow one run or fewer in each of his first five career postseason starts, since 1903. He became just the second pitcher since 1903, to have five consecutive starts of one or less runs, Curt Schilling did it in six straight from 1993-2001. The Giants are 5-0 in his starts and he has a miniscule ERA of 1.19.
The teams were evenly matched during the regular season as the Giants took four or seven from the Cardinals. The teams last played on July 3 so a lot of things have changed. The Cardinals will look to get revenge from 2012 when the Giants defeated them in the NLCS in route to their title.
Prediction: As evenly as this series seems to be, I will be giving the advantage to the Cardinals. The pitching for both sides is even, but I feel the Cardinals have the ability to put up runs in bunches, even against great pitching. The offense is starting to heat up for a team that only hit 105 home runs during the regular season. This is tough, but I think the Cardinals win in six games. Good news for all Nationals fans, since the Giants will be out of the postseason.