Both the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants might be considered teams of destiny in this 2012 postseason as they face their Game 3 clash (4.05pm ET, Wednesday).
The Cardinals, who in the past two seasons have performed late-game heroics, once again defeated all odds in their victory over the Washington Nationals.
At one point the Cardinals did lead the series 2-1 but then the Nationals tied it and it came down to the fifth game, where Washington had a commanding 6-0 lead going into the fifth inning. Not once but twice, St. Louis found themselves down to their last strike when the game was 7-5 in favor of the Nationals. They won the game 9-7.
At the other end of the spectrum was the San Francisco Giants. They struggled to hit the ball and get consistent pitching all season and had to play a Cincinnati Reds team that was tops in the league in terms of offense. Down 2-0 in the series, the Giants rallied back to force a game five. At that point, they had the advantage in the pitching match-up and it paid off. The Giants threw perfect game pitcher Matt Cain and completed the remarkable comeback.
And it is only fitting that the two National League comeback kids, also the last two teams to have earned the title ‘World Series Champions,’ would find themselves facing each other in the NLCS. It is also only fitting that the series is currently tied at one game apiece.
With the all-important game three bringing the series back to St. Louis, the Cardinals look to have a bit of a home field advantage. The Giants however seem to have an advantage in that they are throwing one of baseball’s best right handers in their ace Matt Cain. It will be a toughly-contested game and after how the series has gone so far, this game is anybody’s to win.
There Must Be Something Magical About the October Infield at Busch Stadium
Over the past two seasons, the Cardinals have established a formula for success: have one player heat up in October. Last year, this formula netted them the 10th championship in franchise history. This season, it helped them advance past the NLDS and into the second round.
Last year, the postseason hero was David Freese, an unheralded third baseman who during the regular season played in just 97 games, hitting just 10 home runs with a .297 average. He won the World Series MVP for his stats against the Texas Rangers in last year’s seven game thriller.
This year, the hero has come from the middle of the infield in second baseman Daniel Descalso. A career .245 hitter, Descalso hit just .227 in 2012 with 83 strikeouts as well. So far in the playoffs though he has been a key player, especially with his clutch base hit that tied game five and kept the Cardinals alive against the Nationals.
With Freese last year and Descalso this year, the Cardinals infield has turned out postseason savants. Both players, although not hugely involved in the regular season success, had been exactly what the St. Louis offense has needed.
Here is a look at the numbers of the two players who give the Cardinals not one, but two, “Mr. Octobers.”
- David Freese 2011 Postseason Stats: 18 GP, 63 AB, 12 R, 25 H, 5 HR, 21 RBI, .397 BA
- Daniel Descalso 2011 Postseason Stats: 13 GP, 9 AB, 3 R, 3 H, .333 BA
- David Freese 2012 Postseason Stats: 8 GP, 28 AB, 4 R, 9 H, 1 HR, 4 RBI, .321 BA
- Daniel Descalso 2012 Postseason Stats: 8 GP, 29 AB, 8 R, 8 H, 2 HR, 6 RBI, .276 BA
Finding a Way to Beat San Francisco Ace, Matt Cain
Now in his seventh year in the league, Cain has enjoyed immense success since his breakthrough year in 2009. In the past four years he has posted a 55-35 win-loss record, has cut down on his walks and ramped up his strikeouts per game. Cain has also pitched 11 complete games and four shut outs in this span.
With the exception of his seven game rookie season in 2005, Cain set career bests in wins (16), losses (5), earned runs (68), runs (73), walks (51), ERA (2.79) and WHIP (1.04) in the 2012 season.
While Cain has not been a perfect postseason pitcher, when the Giants won the World Series in 2010, he was basically unhittable. He gave up just 13 in three games started, pitched 21.1 total innings, struck out 13 and yielded just one, unearned run.
The best news for the Cardinals though is that Cain has struggled a bit this postseason. Part of the reason for this is that Cain gives up the long ball and does so with more frequency than he should for the ballpark he pitches in. During the regular season, Cain gave up 21 home runs. In games where he gave up two or more including NLDS game one, the Giants were 1-5. In all other games, they lost just 11 of Cain’s 33 starts.
So for a Cardinals’ team that has hit nine home runs this postseason, including three from Carlos Beltran, the former Giant, they could find some success against Cain. However, of the Cardinals’ hitters, it is only Beltran that is hitting well against him at a clip of .385 in 13 at-bats.
San Francisco Giants at St Louis Cardinals Picks Verdict
Lance Lynn survived a late Giants’ charge to lead the Cardinals to a 6-4 game one victory. Ryan Vogelsong was brilliant allowing just four hits and one run to help the Giants even the series at one game each.
Game three, while it won’t be do-or-die, could signal a momentum change in the series. After all, the Cardinals threw postseason stud Chris Carpenter and lost and the Giants still have their ace left to go.
While the series could go either way, I’m a strong believer that Matt Cain is one of the best pitchers in the game right now. Expect him and the Giants to win game three over the Cardinals.
- Bet on the San Francisco Giants @ +115 on the moneyline with BetOnline Sportsbook. Non-Americans bet with Bet365.