One day, and one awful broken ankle injury later, the National League Championship Series will hope to provide what the first game of the ALCS provided last night. Just without a major injury.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Francisco Giants
Schedule: Game 1 – Sun. 8:00; Game 2 – Mon. 8:00; Game 3 – Wed. 4:00; Game 4 – Thu. 8:00; Game 5* – Fri. 8:00; Game 6* – Sun. 10/21, 4:30; Game 7* – Mon. 10/22 8:00
The NLCS features two teams that are used to getting quality outing from their rotations. However, with both teams being pushed to the limit, and neither rotation living up to expectations in the first round of the playoffs, the rotations are in turmoil. Lance Lynn, who appeared out of the bullpen in the first round despite having a great season as a starter, will get the ball when the series begins. He will face Madison Bumgarner, who gave up four runs in 4.1 innings in Game 2 of the Cincinnati series. With pitching being a concern for both teams, I think this series has the potential to be entertaining, offensive games, but nothing too crazy.
Both teams had their backs up against the walls in the first round, which will be used as the wake up moment for whichever team ends up winning the series. The Giants were never down to their final strike like the Cards were, but they did have to win three straight road games. Buster Posey’s grand slam to open up Game 5 could be seen as a turning point on a personal note. The MVP candidate did not have a good first round, hitting .211 with just one RBI, before the slammer. At some point, the Giants will need him to hit to win. The bright spot has been Pablo Sandoval, who hit .333 against the Cardinals.
For the Cardinals, who scored more than eight runs in each of their three Division Series wins, production from David Freese and Carlos Beltran must continue. Beltran, who is indeed playing like its 2004, was 8-18 in the first round, while last year’s World Series MVP batted .421. Daniel Descalso has been scoring runs, and must continue to get on base so that the big bats can bring him home.
The lone question mark in this series is the Cardinals bullpen. Lynn was used as a long reliever in the first round, which was helpful when Jaime Garcia struggled against the Nationals and had to be taken out in the third inning. This series, there is no long man to come in an emergency situation. Meanwhile, the Giants bullpen has been remarkable all year, and was essential to their victory over the Reds.
I like the Giants to win this series, even if the Cards have become that team that no one wants to meet in the playoffs. I will pick the Giants in seven games, because I think the Giants are just slightly better in the rotation, even if the Cards have the better hitters. Enjoy this series – you get to see the two most recent champions square off against each other. What could be better?
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