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NLCS Game 4: Random Observations And Stuff

I live in perpetual fear…so I just want to get this out of the way, so I can say I said it: The Cardinals had a 3-1 lead on the Braves in 1996…and a 3-1 lead on the Royals in 1985…and a 3-1 lead on the Tigers in 1968.

It’s not over.

For my own psychosis, I needed to make sure I included that…and I decided to get it out of the way early.

But, in order for the Giants to become the fourth team to come back from a 3-1 deficit against the Cardinals and win this series, they’re going to have to win a game in St. Louis with Barry Zito, beat Chris Carpenter for a second time, and finally, find a way to beat Kyle Lohse and his 1.96 playoff ERA.

And…that’s not even mentioning the Cardinal offense, which finally came alive in Game 4.

They were hitting .193 in the first three games of the NLCS…and yet had a two games to one lead. But, Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, and Yadier Molina had done damn near nothing in the first three games. Allen Craig literally had done nothing…hitting .000 coming into last night.

Inevitably, one of them would have to come around. That’s what a batting average is. Math is fun. Math is useful. Math worked last night.

After the offensive abyss that had become the Cardinals’ three, four, and five spots in the first three games of this series (and really dating back to most of the NLDS), the boys broke out last night. Holliday, Craig, and Molina combined to go five-for-12 with five RBI’s and three runs scored.

This was the first game of the playoffs where we could see what the Cardinals are really capable of: top-to-bottom offense and strong starting pitching.

It was the first time they put it all together this NLCS…and yet here they are up 3-1 in the series.

Well, you know what…I take it back.

There was one piece missing last night…and it’s a positive that it was missing: the bullpen.

Because Wainwright became the first starter to last at least six innings since Kyle Lohse did it in Game 4 of the NLDS, the Cardinals didn’t need to tap into that dangerous---but tired---bullpen. Wainwright was dominant. He was locating that breaking ball to perfection. It was clear he was on in the first inning…and he carried it over throughout the game. That allowed the Cardinals to rest Trevor Rosenthal, Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs, and Jason Motte.

Huge.

All of those guys are rested now…and Joe Kelly, who I’d gather is the net should Lance Lynn fall, hasn’t pitched since Monday night.

Dammit.

I’ve got to take it back again.

The Cardinals did show what they can do with top-to-bottom offensive production and starting pitching…but didn’t show the bullpen…and didn’t need to use Carlos Beltran.

So…they did this without Beltran…and allowed him to get a full day of rest.

Huge. Once again.

Beltran has been on the short end of the stick of the Cardinals’ comeback against the Astros in 2004 and the classic Game 7 against the Mets in 2006…but he hasn’t been to the World Series. He came to St. Louis for that shot. David Freese has said the team wants to get him there.

Tonight could be his night.

It would be quite strong if it is…and it’s quite important to get it done…for a potpourri of reasons.

First off, if you can clinch it at home…that makes it much more special.

But, second, if the Cardinals were to lose and have to go back to San Francisco, Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain would be waiting for them.

And, finally, since the goal is a World Championship, if the Cardinals win tonight, Mike Matheny can set up his rotation however he sees fit. If this thing goes seven, not only would it be brutal…but if the Cardinals would be able to win it in Game 7, they’d have to start Lance Lynn in Game 2 and Game 6 of the World Series.


But, because Carpenter and Lohse would be going in Game 6 and Game 7, this wouldn’t be as dire of a situation as, say, the 1996 Cardinals had going back to Atlanta with rookie Alan Benes going against Greg Maddux and Donovan Osborne going against Tom Glavine.

Either way, it’d be pretty rough…and tonight is a prime opportunity to wrap this up.

Zito lasted 2.2 innings in his start against the Reds in the NLDS. He was better this year than some of his recent disasters since signing his giant contract, but still…this isn’t the guy Bruce Bochy wants to have to send out there…but he has to send him out there.

Lance Lynn is the variable.

If he’s bad early again, I don’t have any doubt Matheny will pull him. The bullpen is rested, and the Cardinals have a day off Saturday. There’s no reason to let him stay out there if he’s struggling.

Now, I have a tough time writing off the Giants when they came back from an 0-2 deficit and had to win three straight on the road. The thing that keeps jumping out at me is that their lineup---so far---just hasn’t been able to produce too many hits, and I don’t think it’s a slump. I think it’s who they are.

Let me take it to another level.

When the Giants have gotten hits…even going back to San Francisco…the majority of them have fallen into one of or both of the two following categories:

1.    Dinks and Dunks or Bloops.
2.    Capitalizing on a fading Cardinal starter

Now, don’t get me wrong, Hunter Pence unloaded on Wainwright last night, Pablo Sandoval did the same to Fernando Salas, and Marco Scutaro seems to hit the ball everytime he’s up, but in the other dugout…with the exception of Game 2…the Cardinals are hitting the ball hard more often…even when they make outs.

That is who the Cardinals are.

If anything, we hadn’t really seen the Cardinals’ offense in this series until last night.

The Giants have to help it hibernates and/or play a role in putting it down for three games in order to pull off the comeback.

They have the pitching to do it…but the Cardinals have some damn good pitching as well.

That’s why this is going to be a hell of a comeback.

I think anyone paying even a slight bit of attention to the ALCS knew the Yankees weren’t heading back to the Bronx after they left Sunday. They were done.

In this case, the Giants aren’t done. They’re a good team…just getting beaten at this point by a better team.

The Cardinals have won six National League Pennants since 1982, but they’ve only clinched them in St. Louis twice (1987 and 2004).

If things go their way against the Giants tonight, it would not only be their third pennant-clinching celebration in St. Louis, it’d be the third straight Friday night they’re celebrating.

Time for another Friday Night Death Match.

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