By Ryan Witt
After coming back from the largest deficit in postseason elimination game history the Cardinals have now packed their bags and flown to San Francisco to take on the Giants. As seen below, the matchup features two quality pitching staffs, but the Cardinals have the edge in hitting.
San Francisco Giants (94-68), (48-33) at home
St. Louis Cardinals (88-74), (38-43) on the road
The Starting Pitchers
Cardinals and Giants Expected Starting Pitchers
Game 1: Lance Lynn (18-7, 3.78 ERA) versus Madison Bumgarner (16-11, 3.37 ERA)
Game 2: Chris Carpenter (0-2, 3.71 ERA) versus Ryan Vogelsong (14-9, 3.37 ERA)
Game 3: Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA) versus Matt Cain (16-5, 2.79 ERA)
Game 4: Adam Wainwright (14-13, 3.94 ERA) versus Barry Zito (15-8, 4.15 ERA)
Matchup Advantage: The Game 1 matchup likely favors the Giants, as Bumgarner has had a better overall ERA and Lynn tends to pitch better at home (3.28 ERA) than on the road (4.15 ERA). However, the Cardinals have scored seven runs on Bumgarner over 12 IP this year so that helps to even the matchup. Lynn was excellent in the first half of the season, then struggled so much in the second half that he was relegated to the bullpen. In September Lynn was brought back as a starter and found some of his old form. Which Lynn shows up tonight will be key to the Cardinals’ chances.
In Game 2 the Cardinals always feel like they can win with Chris Carpenter in the postseason, and Carpenter was able to hold the powerful Nationals’ lineup scoreless over 5.2 IP in the NLDS. After an excellent first half, Vogelsong really struggled in the second half of the season, but then recovered in the NLDS to garner a 1.80 ERA against the Reds. Vogelsong pitches better at home (2.86 ERA) than on the road (3.87 ERA). In his only matchup against the Cardinals this year Vogelson threw seven scoreless innings.
Kyle Lohse has had a career year in 2012, and held the Nationals to only one run over seven innings in the NLDS. Lohse also pitches better at home (2.33 ERA) than on the road (3.41 ERA). Lohse has not pitched against the Giants this year. The Giants counter with Matt Cain, who sports a better overall ERA but also a much worse ERA on the road (3.56) than at home (2.03). The home/road split of Cain probably gives the Cardinals a slight advantage in this matchup.
Finally, in Game 4 the Cardinals will send Adam Wainwright back out after a horrible outing in Game 5 of the NLDS. Wainwright pitched well in Game 1 of the NLDS, but needs to have much better movement and control than he had in Game 5. Wainwright tends to pitch better at home (3.73 ERA) than on the road (4.20 ERA). Zito has had a bounce back year after a terrible 2011. Zito pitched one game at St. Louis this year and yielded only two runs over 6.2 IP. The matchup probably favors the Cardinals, but only slightly.
Cardinals Typical Starters
Jon Jay – CF
Carlos Beltran – RF
Matt Holliday – LF
Allen Craig – 1B
Yadier Molina – C
David Freese – 3B
Daniel Descalso – 2B
Pete Kozma – SS
Analysis: The Cardinals offense was all-or-nothing in the NLDS just like it was in the regular season. In Games 1 and 4 the offense scored a total of three runs and lost. In Games 2, 3, and 5 the offense scored 29 runs and won. Which offense shows up today could be the key to victory.
The Cardinals’ offense has been second to only the Brewers during the regular year, scoring a total of 765 runs. The Cardinals’ on-base-percentage (.338) ranks first in Major League Baseball. Their slugging-percentage (.413) ranks fourth in the National League behind the Nationals, Rockies, and Brewers. The Cardinals’ offense struggled through much of the second half of the season, but has found a bit of resurgence recently, as the Nationals witnessed in the NLDS.
Giants Typical Starters
Angel Pagan – CF
Marco Scutaro – 2B
Pablo Sandoval – 3B
Buster Posey – C
Hunter Pence – RF
Brandon Belt – 1B
Gregor Blanco – LF
Brandon Crawford – SS
Analysis: Over the regular season, the Giants scored less runs (718) than the Cardinals, and their OBP (.315) ranks twenty-first in the Majors. The Giants also struggle to produce power, with a just a .383 SLUG that ranks 26 in the Major Leagues.
Still, the Giants have four quality hitters in the center of the lineup with Scutaro, Sandoval, Posey, and Pence. Even with their low OBP and SLUG the Giants find a way to produce runs. As the Reds found out, one of the keys is keeping men off base with potential league MVP Posey at the plate.
Matchup Advantage: The Cardinals have a large advantage in the hitting department, but anything can happen in seven game series, particularly given the quality starting pitching that the Cardinal hitters will be contending with in all of the games.
Cardinals’ Analysis: The Cardinals’ bullpen performed had a mixed performance in the NLDS. In Game 1 Marc Rzepczynksi yielded the key hit to Tyler Moore which gave the Nationals a 3-2 lead. IN Game 4, Lance Lynn gave up a home run to Jayson Werth in a long 14 pitch battle. However, in Game 5 the Cardinals bullpen only yielded one run over seven innings which was key to the Cardinals’ historic comeback.
The Cardinals’ bullpen struggled in the first half of the season, and that is reflected in their bullpen ERA (3.90) that ranks twentieth in Major League Baseball. Still, the bullpen improved greatly toward the end of the season with additions of Edward Mujica (3.03 ERA) and Trevor Rosenthal (2.78 ERA). Over the last 30 days of the season the Cardinals bullpen had a 3.26 ERA. In the eighth and ninth innings the Cardinals typically rely upon Mitchell Boggs (2.21) and Jason Motte (2.75 ERA, 42 Saves) who have both had outstanding seasons.
Giants’ Analysis: Many believed the Giants bullpen would be in trouble after they lost closer Brian Wilson at the beginning of the year. While the Giants bullpen has not been as dominant as years past, they still garnered a respectable 3.56 ERA which ranks fifteenth in the Majors. The back end of the bullpen is particularly strong with Sergio Romo (1.79 ERA, 14 Saves), Javier Lopez (2.50 ERA, 7 Saves), Santiago Castilla (2.84 ERA, 24 Saves), and Jeremy Alfedt (2.70 ERA, 3 Saves).
Matchup Advantage: This matchup is a tie, as both teams now feature over four relievers in the bullpen with very respectable ERA and stuff.
The Giants have the advantage on defense. The Cardinals’ had an ultimate-zone-rating (UZR) of -29.8 throughout the season, which ranks twenty-ninth in Major League Baseball. The Giants UZR is 8.6, which ranks thirteenth in the MLB. Still, the Cardinals feature the best defensive player in the game in Yadier Molina, and have improved defense when they plan Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma as they are now.
Overall Matchup Advantage: The two teams are fairly evenly matched in every area but offense, where the Cardinals have a distinct advantage. In the end, the Cardinals are just able to score more runs with that lineup. The Cardinals should be able to win two-high scoring games with the bats. If they can isolate Posey, the Cardinals can also win two low-scoring games with their pitching.
Prediction: Cardinals win the series in six games.
Ryan Witt is a freelance writer covering all things St. Louis Cardinals. His work can be found on Examiner.com.