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Giants, Cardinals, Game SevenPosted on October 22, 2012 at 08:51 AM.
It shouldn’t be all that surprising that the Cardinals and Giants will play a game seven for the right to go to the World Series to face the Detroit Tigers. After all, this is a Cardinals team that has literally been down to its last strike a handful of times over the last two postseasons. They were in that spot in the NLDS against the Washington Nationals, but rallied to win. They have a World Series title from that exact situation. The Giants also know a little something about elimination games. Last night’s win was their fifth of the postseason under a win or go home scenario. Tonight, both teams are playing under very familiar circumstances and in an environment that both have found success.
With the way the two teams have played under this type of pressure, you get the feeling that game seven could be one of those 18 inning affairs with both teams refusing to yield.
With that mindset, it does make it unlikely that the starting pitchers will be involved in the decision. On paper, the match up is a mismatch as the Cardinals send a tired looking Kyle Lohse to the mound against the Giants’ ace Matt Cain.
The 33 year old Lohse has been stellar all season. In his two postseason starts, he has also fared well, allowing just 2 runs and 9 hits in 12.2 innings. He struggled with his command during his last start, walking 5 Giants’ batters. Although he only gave up one run against the Giants, his struggle with the strike zone has led to the perception that he is running on fumes. That wouldn’t be all that surprising considering he has pitched a career high 223.2 innings, counting both the regular season and postseason.
The Giants send Cain to the mound, who after another dominant season has struggled this postseason. In his three starts, Cain has allowed 9 runs and 17 hits in 17.2 innings of work. But, these are the types of situations he thrives in: a home start, game seven, and a trip to the World Series on the line. During his 15 regular season home starts, Cain is 8-3 with a 2.03 ERA. But, the Cardinals did hit him hard during the season as well. In two starts against the Red Birds, Cain is 1-1 with a 6.94 ERA in 11.2 innings.
Both bullpens figure to be the key to this game. That’s where the Cardinals could have an advantage. Rookie Manager Mike Matheny made a decision during game six that could prove pivotal for game seven as he allowed starter Chris Carpenter to continue to pitch rather than go to his bullpen early. That decision helped save his key late inning relievers in Trevor Rosenthal, Mitchell Boggs, and closer Jason Motte. It’s a decision that many managers wouldn’t make during the playoffs. Most managers would immediately go to the bullpen and hope to stave off a game seven.
“We just at that point let Carp go ahead and tried to work through it and give us an opportunity to try to save some of our pen. But more importantly, he was making pitches getting out, so we let him go,” said Matheny.
Carpenter would give up 6 hits and 5 runs (2 earned) in 4 innings of work. Had Matheny lifted him during the second inning, he would’ve had to go to one or two more relievers. Instead, Carpenter gave two more scoreless innings before the underbelly of the bullpen finished the game with 4 innings of one run baseball.
Carpenter’s outing was sabotaged by the Cardinals’ achilles heel this season, the defense. During the regular season, the Cardinals were one of the worst defensive teams in the National League, posting a team UZR of minus-20.4 and a DRS of minus-14. And, they committed 106 errors, sixth most in the National League. The Cardinals committed another error last night, which led to the three unearned runs. In each of their three losses to the Giants, they have allowed multiple unearned runs .
The Giants are attempting to do the improbable as they are trying to complete the comeback from 3-1 down and win the series. If they do win, they will become just the third team in NLCS history to do so. Additionally, they would be just the 12th of 77 teams in MLB postseason history to comeback from a 3-1 deficit in a best of seven series.
The Giants’ latest comeback has all to do with their pitching. Barry Zito has received a ton of attention for not living up to his contract. His game five start likely made the entire thing worthwhile. Ryan Vogelsong matched him in game six. The Giants’ pitching has been so dominant of late that the mighty Cardinals offense scored its first run in 15 innings during the sixth inning in game six. Cain will try to keep it all moving.
They certainly have the two hottest hitters in the series with Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval providing much of the offense. MVP candidate Buster Posey has struggled for most of the series. Scutaro is 11 for 24 this series with 3 doubles and 4 RBI. He has had a hit in nine consecutive postseason games. Sandoval is 8 for 25 with 2 home runs and 5 RBI.
You can look at splits, try to dissect match ups, and try to make sense of the two teams. But, none of that matters. This is game seven and anything can happen. We measure baseball in terms of the long season, but in one game there is so much that can happen. Lohse could dominate, even when nothing points to that. Cain could turn in a dominate performance or he could continue to struggle. Any player could become the key figure of the game. In one game, anything can happen.
Game seven is for the fans to enjoy as we watch both teams do anything possible to get to the World Series. Bullpens will be stocked and unloaded at will; nothing will be saved for tomorrow. This game seven is even more dramatic with two teams quite familiar and quite successful in this situation. The Cardinals look to have an edge because of Matheny’s decision to rest his bullpen, but the Giants are at home, have their best starter on the mound, and have the two hottest hitters of the series.
Game seven. Two resilient teams. It doesn't get any better.
BORN: April 17, 1975 (38)
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