SF Giants Prospects

San Francisco Giants oppose St. Louis Cardinals in National League Championship Series

By Mark ONeill
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The San Francisco Giants will meet the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Championship Series, beginning Saturday night in St. Louis, in a rematch of the same two teams that battled it out in 2012. In that series San Francisco came back from a three-games-to-one deficit, to win the right to advance to the world series against the Detroit Tigers. The Orange and Black swept Detroit.

The Cards’ roster, fortified with experienced members from the past two playoff runs, is similar to the Giants, in that the emphasis is strongly on talent developed within the organization. St. Louis leads the National League in this category, with seventeen players being home-grown; San Francisco is fourth, with twelve.

The Giants took four of the seven games between the two teams this season, outscoring the Cards 30-20. As is so frequently the case, the Giants took three out of four in St. Louis at the very end of May, and then dropped the series at AT&T Park, two games to one, a month later. 

Coincidentally, the first series occurred just as San Francisco was peaking in that red-hot stretch, which saw them win 21 of their first 42 games, whereas the second took place exactly one month later, in the middle of the Giants’ precipitous free-fall from the top echelon, to the number ten seed in the playoffs.

At the start of the second series, the Cards were 44-39, six-and-a-half games behind the Milwaukee Brewers in the Central Division, while the Giants were 46-36, one-half game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. Ending the season at 90-72 means that the Cards finished up at 46-33; San Francisco closed out at 88-74, meaning they won 42 and dropped 38 over the rest of the season.

It’s been a wild first half, but the San Francisco Giants enter the second half only one game out in the NL West. Photo Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis therefore entered the postseason, having played at a considerably higher level of play after the second series, than the Giants: thirteen games above the .500 mark, compared to four games above for the Giants. That being said, both teams, unlike the teams with the best records in baseball, who cruised the last several weeks of the season, had to claw and scratch their way prior to the start of the postseason.

St. Louis had the Pittsburgh Pirates pursuing them, finishing just two games in front of the Bucs. The Giants made a fine late-season rush at the Dodgers, but played the pitching-rich San Diego Padres, seven of the last ten games of the season. The Padres took three out of four at home, and one of the three in San Francisco, to take the series, and the Giants ended up six games back of the Dodgers.

The first of the seven meetings between the Giants and the Cardinals was an epic clash between the two teams which had claimed the pennant, the previous four seasons. Michael Morse went 2-4 with a homer and 3 RBIs; Pablo Sandoval also homered, his RBI extending his streak of games, with at least one RBI, to nine.

The lead changed hands three times, at one point it was tied, and the Cards eked out one final run in the ninth inning, before leaving two runners on base, representing the tying and winning runs. The Giants won the contest 6-5.

From what they have demonstrated in the playoffs so far, these two teams will play cutthroat ball to claim the pennant.

these two teams will deal cutthroat ball to one another, and the winner will go on to the Big Show.

The winner will move on to play the victor in the matchup between the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles, with the American League having the home-field advantage.

The series pits two postseason masters, Bruce Bochy, with six playoff runs under his belt, seven including the present one, against Mike Matheny, with three postseason appearances, including the current run. Despite being the junior of the two in terms of years, Mike Matheny is already a grizzled playoff veteran, having taken his team to the NLCS his first three years as manager. He lost to the Giants in 2012, beat the Dodgers last season, losing to Boston in the world series, and opposes Bruce Bochy again this year.

Bochy took the San Diego Padres to the playoffs in 1996, 1998, 2005, and 2006, winning the National League Pennant in 1998, but losing the world series to the New York Yankees in four games. He led the Giants to world championships in 2010 and 2012.

Oct 27, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) cannot throw out Boston Red Sox first baseman David Ortiz (not pictured) at first base during the third inning of game four of the MLB baseball World Series at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Whether you discuss the Cards’ Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, or the sizzling Matt Carpenter, St. Louis radiates confidence and tenacity. Win or lose, they will provide excellent pitching, clutch hitting and strategic managerial moves, not to mention a superior brand of entertainment.

The Giants counter with Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Hunter Pence,  and Pablo Sandoval, veterans all, of the 2012 successful campaign, with Buster, MadBum and The Panda having also played in 2010, when San Francisco won the first world series since moving to the Bay Area in 1958.

Now Bruce Bochy leads his team into the NLCS against Mike Matheny, with the Cardinals having the home field advantage. Once again the Giants are not favored to win, but as recent history strongly suggests, it’s a well-known and comfortable spot for them to be in.

Would you rather it were any other way? 

oMay 25, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants infielder Pablo Sandoval (48) celebrates with teammates after the Giants defeated the Minnesota Twins 8-1 at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

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