By Ryan Witt
The Cardinals now lead the NLCS Series 2-1 after defeating the San Francisco Giants 3-1 in yesterday’s weather-delayed game. Game 4 now has more urgency for the Giants, who need to tie up the series or face a scenario where they are one game away from elimination. The Cardinals want to take advantage of their home games and, if possible, avoid going back to San Francisco. Here is a preview of the Game 4 matchup.
- San Francisco Giants (94-68), (46-35) on the road
- St. Louis Cardinals (88-74), (50-31) at home
Cardinals and Giants Starting Pitchers
Adam Wainwright (14-13, 3.94 ERA)
The Cardinals will send Adam Wainwright back out on the mound 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).
Tim Linecum (10-15, 5.18 ERA)
The Giants had Barry Zito and Tim Linecum to choose from for Game 4 and have decided on Linecum. In previous years Linecum, who is 2-time Cy Young winner, would have been an obvious choice as a Game 1 starter. However, this year Zito has struggled mightily as evidenced by his high ERA. Still, Linecum still has the pure stuff to dominate, and performed well from the bullpen in Game 1 of the series. Linecum’s lower xFIP (3.82) suggests that he was also simply the victim of some bad fielding and bad luck this season.
Matchup Advantage: Both pitchers are former aces who had down years. Linecum lost his control this year which resulted in more walks, home runs, and a higher ERA. Wainwright struggled at times bouncing back from Tommy John surgery last year. If either pitcher regains their old form they are capable of dominating today. Wainwright has better odds since he had a slightly better ERA than Linecum, and also is pitching at home where he tends to be more comfortable.
Likely Cardinals Starters
- Jon Jay – CF
- Matt Carpetner – 1B
- Matt Holliday – LF
- Allen Craig – RF
- 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.
The Cardinals offense did take a hit yesterday when Carlos Beltran left the game with a left-knee strain. Beltran, who has arguably the best post-season offensive statistics of all time, is expected to miss at least Game 4. The good news is that the Cardinals have a quality replacement in Matt Carpenter, who hit the key two-run home run yesterday to put the Cardinals on top.
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.
The Giants have produced plenty of baserunners in all three games, but still only managed 12 runs total. Yesterday the Giants particularly struggled hitting with men in scoring position.
Matchup Advantage: The Cardinals have a clear advantage here, but there chances took a hit with the loss of Beltran.
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 6-1 as Linecum struggles.
Ryan Witt is a freelance writer covering all things St. Louis Cardinals. His work can be found on Examiner.com.