Saturday, October 13, 2012

The NLCS: Fighting magic with magic

"Amazing that we've gotten to this point," say...

...both the Giants and Cardinals.

"There were a couple times that we looked dead in the water," say...

...both the Giants and Cardinals.

"But we love the makeup of this team, and we've done it before," say...

...both the Giants and Cardinals.

It's true. I can't think of two teams whose recent postseason exploits more closely resemble one another. One team was down 2-0 with the task of winning 3 in a row on the road, the other was down by 2 and down to its last strike on the road. Both teams pulled it out and now the battle of postseason magic will play out in the 2012 NLCS.

No offense to the American League and its fancy Prince Fielders and Bronx Bombers, but this NLCS is the hands down must watch series and WILL go down as one of the greatest playoff series of all time. You thought the Giants' NLDS series was torture? Wait'll you get a load of this one.

How improbable is it that the last two World Series champs will face off in this series? Most Cardinals fans had given up long ago this season. Trust me-- I know (my girlfriend is a Cards fan, more on that next post).

I've watched more Cardinal games than you, and heard waaaaayyyy more about them than I care to. That benefits me now as I size up our opponent heading into Sunday.

This is a very evenly matched pair of teams and both have the "it" factor I talk about. There's magic in both of them and both teams are laden with postseason heroes up and down the roster.

They've got the bigger sluggers, we have the better bullpen. We perhaps have the edge in the starting rotation now that Lincecum seems to be progressing up to the mean, but other than that, these teams match up very well.

The one thing that Cards fans will tell you is that they don't win many close games. They blow teams out early and hold on. Despite their recent postseason performances (and 2011's for that matter), they've struggled to reach their potential all season, despite a deadly lineup.

Conversely, you could say our lineup has overachieved and that our pitching has failed to live up to its ability. We've gotten the clutch hits we've needed and have overcome horrendous performances from Timmy all season to run away with the West.

You can certainly say that the NL Central was much tougher than the NL West-- a valid point. How then do you explain how the Cardinals struggled to land a secondary Wild Card berth when their only competition was the useless losing Dodgers and a surging Brewers team that had come back from like 233 games back?

Not to take anything away from what St. Louis has done in the playoffs this season, but they had a pretty disappointing season-- while I can say that in general, the Giants have had a successful 2012.

Granted, the Cards were without Chris Carpenter most of the season (until now) and are now without both Rafael Furcal and Lance Berkman. We'll see your injuries with the losses of Brian Wilson and Melky Cabrera.

Speaking of Carpenter-- what an absolute gamer. He had a rib removed to alleviate pressure on a nerve that affected his pitching arm. Once declared out for the season and potentially headed for retirement, he pulled something resembling a Ronnie Lott to get back on the field. Commendable.

FYI, that rib is now in a jar in his daughter's room.

The point of all this is that we're in an up and down series that will likely go the full seven games. In order for the Giants to win, they need to keep STL's sluggers in check early and prevent late inning magic by the likes of Allen Craig and David Freese (or Kozma... or Descalso... as the Nats found out).

If the Giants hit anywhere close to what they did in Games 4 and 5 in Cincinnatti, they win the series, no doubt. We all know we can't expect that to happen. We need all hands on deck to win this series, but we can take care of it.

Cain and Bumgarner need to get it together and Affeldt needs to be healthy. Other than that, I'm confident that we can take care of business. Never give up!

With my intimate knowledge of both teams, here's how I stack them up with letter grades below:

Prediction: Giants in 7

Overall Offense

Giants: B-
Cards: A

Offensive Power

Giants: C-
Cards: A-

Overall Defense

Giants: A-
Cards: B

Starting Pitching

Giants: A-
Cards: B+


Giants: B+
Cards: C+


Giants: B
Cards: A-


Giants: B
Cards: B-


Giants: B+
Cards: C


Giants: A-
Cards: B+

Bonus Category: Team Broadcasters

Giants: A+
Cards: D+

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