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The St. Louis Cardinals jumped out to a 1-0 lead on the San Francisco Giants in the NLCS Sunday night, and the 6-4 victory could not have gone better for the Cardinals.

Some may think getting an early 6-0 lead, then having their starter knocked out in letting the Giants get back into the game before the end of the 4th inning, and having to go through five relievers to hang on for the win isn’t exactly ideal for the Cards, and in some ways that may be true. But after the high of the ridiculous comeback against the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS, maybe the Cardinals can benefit from getting a little worried as the Giants chipped away at Sunday’s lead. After all, what team knows more about improbable comebacks?

The Cardinals are a really good team. But as they’ve shown, they are still prone to the occasional offensive drought. Don’t forget, in that NLDS they only scored a total of three runs in the two games they lost. And those weren’t flukes; they’ve had those down streaks all season. It’s just who they are.

The Giants are a really good team, too. They have a great pitching staff, solid lineup, and pretty exceptional defense. They’re not unlike the Nationals, a team that had the Cards down to their last strike more than once (chills). Fall asleep on the Giants, and they’ll come back to make you look like fools. Just ask the Cincinnati Reds.

Not that there should be concern that the Cardinals will take anything for granted. Again, when you’ve been a part of several improbable comebacks, you’ve also witnessed some epic collapses. If any team personifies the cliché “anything can happen,” it’s these Redbirds. But they’re also human. And after the win Friday night in DC and the early six run lead in San Fran, it would not have been real tough to sit back a little and start thinking “Damn…we’re pretty awesome right now, aren’t we?” And then the Giants made a game of it. The Cardinals got to run the gamut of emotions Sunday night: high confidence with a big lead, a little fear as it started to slip away, intense focus to hold a close lead, and jubilation/relief when the game ended with a victory. Even if they were to sweep this NLCS, the Cardinals will face plenty of adversity in these games with the Giants because the Redbirds just aren’t a dominant team. Their grit and never-say-die attitude is what defines them, and that doesn’t come from walking through blowout win after blowout win. It’s good for them to see a little adversity early.

The teams actually played a pretty similar game Sunday. Both starters were out of the game early; both bullpens shut the door on scoring once in the game. The Cardinals had eight hits, and the Giants had seven. But the Cards were able to get a couple of two-run home runs, one from Carlos Beltran and one from David Freese. That extra power saved the Cardinals from a disappointing start to this series. Instead, they will come home to Busch Stadium no worse than tied in this series.

The Cardinals are approaching the halfway point of their ultimate goal: they needed 12 postseason victories to win the World Series, and they got their fifth on Sunday. Already they’ve seen a little bit of everything, and that can only be a positive. Because who knows what the Cards will see next.

Chris Reed is a freelance writer who also appears on
I-70 Baseball Saturdays and Bird Brained whenever he feels like it. Follow him on Twitter @birdbrained.

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