Cardinals at Giants: NLCS Game 6 Preview
The National League Championship Series makes its way back to San Francisco Sunday as the Giants and St. Louis Cardinals face off in yet another elimination game for the Orange and Black.
The Giants took Game 5 Thursday night in St. Louis, 5-0, behind a brilliant and gutsy performance by Barry Zito.
San Francisco has been on the brink of elimination four times this postseason — and has staved it off every time. They were down two-games-to-none against the Reds in the NLDS and went on to win the final three contests. Then they found themselves down 3-games-to-1 against the Cardinals before Zito’s gem on Thursday.
If the G-men hope to win the whole (#rally) enchilada, they’ll need to secure the final two games of the series on the shores of McCovey Cove.
Easier said than done. Forty-two thousand crazed fans notwithstanding, AT&T Park hasn’t necessarily been home sweet home field advantage for the Giants this postseason.
An Alaskan cold front and evening showers are supposed to move into the Bay Area Sunday and that could complicate things even more. When the air is cool and moist at Third & King, the ball just doesn’t fly. That’s great for pitchers and all, but Giants hitters may have their work cut out for them. In 81 games away from AT&T Park his season, San Francisco scored 410 runs (5.1 runs per game). Yet, in their 81 games at home, they mustered just 308 runs (3.8 runs per game). The key for Sunday? Clutch hitting with runners in scoring position. The Giants cannot afford to strand 11 runners like they did in Game 3.
Offensive challenges aside, I like the Giants’ chances with Vogelsong on the hill. He has been solid against the Cards since his resurgence in 2011, shutting them out over seven innings in his last regular season start against them — a 15-0 blowout on August 8 — and allowing just one run in five innings in a no-decision on May 31, 2011.
In Game 2 of the NLCS last Monday, Vogey was amazing, allowing just one run on four hits and two walks in seven Vogel-strong innings.
Meanwhile, Chris Carpenter returns to the scene of the crime Sunday.
Prior to that, Carpenter was 4-1 with a 3.57 ERA and 1.321 WHIP in eight lifetime outings (53 IP) against the Giants and had won both of his two starts at AT&T Park (2004, 2009).
Just because the Giants have had some success against Carpenter in the past and hit him hard last week, don’t think for a minute that this game is in the bag. That’s because Carpenter knows a thing or two about clinchers. A year ago, the 37-year-old right-hander won the clinching game of the NLDS against the Phillies (a 3-hit, 1-0 nail biter) and then Game 7 of the World Series against the Rangers, 6-2.
Keep a bottle of Tums nearby, Giants fans.
One thing’s for sure. If the Giants do somehow beat the odds and pull off two more wins, I really like their chances against a Detroit Tigers team that has been sitting idle for the past few days after swiftly sweeping the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
Remember what happened to the 2007 Colorado Rockies? They cruised through the NLDS (sweeping the Phillies) and NLCS (sweeping the Diamondbacks) and then had to wait eight long days to play the Boston Red Sox in the Fall Classic. Boston ended up sweeping the Rockies, who had clearly lost their rhythm after the long wait.
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. The Giants need to win Sunday and worry about tomorrow later.
My Game 6 Prediction: Giants 4, Cardinals 2
Game 1: Cardinals 6, Giants 4 (STL leads series 1-0)
Game 2: Giants 7, Cardinals 1 (Series tied 1-1)
Game 3: Cardinals 3, Giants 1 (STL leads series 2-1)
Game 4: Cardinals 7, Giants 1 (STL leads series 3-1)
Game 5: Giants 5, Cardinals 0 (STL leads series 3-2)
Game 6: Cardinals @ Giants: Sun., Oct. 21, 1:30 p.m.
*Game 7: Cardinals @ Giants: Mon., Oct. 22, 5:00 p.m.