By Ryan Witt
The 2012 St. Louis Cardinals may be called many things, but boring is not one of them. Throughout much of the regular season the Cardinals drove their fans nearly insane with inconsistency in their pitching, offense, and defense. In many ways, the NLCS has been microcosm of the entire season, with the Cardinals dominating in two games, being dominated in two other games, and squeaking by in the other. Just when the team seems like it has lost all hope, as was the case in Game 5 of the NLDS, the team somehow finds itself again.
The question now is whether the Cardinals have one more bounce back in their pockets as they face perhaps their toughest test in Game 7 of the NLCS.
After entering Game 5 with a 3-1 series lead the Cardinals have quickly lost all momentum in the NLCS. In Games 5 and 6 the Cardinals’ offense has produced only two runs and 10 hits over 18 innings while striking out 19 times. Meanwhile, the Cardinals’ pitching yielded 11 runs and the defense has committed two crucial errors over the same time period. This is the kind of inconsistent play that yielded a regular season an 88-74 regular season record for the team which would not have even qualified for the playoffs in previous years.
The cards (pun attended) appear stacked against the team once again tonight. The Cardinals will face Giants ace Matt Cain (16-5, 2.79 ERA). Cain only gave up three runs in Game 2, but dominated for most of the 6.2 innings he pitched. Two of the runs Cain surrendered came from a weak single to Jon Jay that was followed by a two-run home run from Matt Carpenter off a hanging slider. The Giants’ offense, which was statistically weaker than the Cardinals’ offense in the regular season, has a good deal of momentum after hitting well over the last two games.
Still, despite all these facts, one gets a sense that the Cardinals still have a good chance to win the game tonight. There are multiple reasons for Cardinals fans to hope for a better result in Game 7 including:
Every Cardinals’ offensive drought this year has been followed by a flood at some point. Many of the Cardinals’ hitters, like Yadier Molina and Allen Craig, appear due for a beak out game.
Giants’ starter Matt Cain did struggle against the Cardinals in the regular season, giving up nine earned runs 11.2 innings pitched. Cain pitched better in Game 2 of the NLCS, but one never knows which Cardinals offense will show up.
The Cardinals might be able to win another pitchers’ duel tomorrow. Cardinals’ starter Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86 ERA) has pitched very well this postseason and held the Giants to only one run in Game 2 despite lacking his normal command.
Finally, this is the type of game that the Cardinals have won all season. When backed into a corner, and facing seemingly insurmountable odds, the Cardinals have found a way to play their best baseball, and they will have to do so again to advance to the World Series.
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Ryan Witt is a freelance writer covering all things St. Louis Cardinals. His work can be found on Examiner.com.