Ahhh, playoff baseball. Nothing shouts randomness quite like a short series. The two lower seeds move on to fight for a chance to head to the World Series. Lower seeds, upstarts and fluke jobs…
Or, the two best offenses in the National League. The defending World Series champion from each of the last two years. There were no bad choices among the four deserving participants in the National League division series. The two teams that emerged seemed — at different but equally dire moments during their respective five game thrillers — the least likely to survive now square off with a World Series berth on the line.
One team that relegated its former ace to the bullpen, only to call on him in relief to save their season, is best known for its formidable starting rotation, a rotation that managed a single decent start in the divisional round. The other pulled itself off the mat in one of the most dramatic games in recent memory, a game in which their nominal ace did not make the fourth inning.
Who got the biggest cheers during pregame intros? None other than that long-haired long reliever. #SFGiants
— John Shea (@JohnSheaHey) October 15, 2012
What we’re left with is all we could ever really ask for: two very good teams playing for a trip to the World Series. The newly-condensed playoff schedule means neither team sends their “ace” for Game One, though the leftovers are pretty good, too. Lance Lynn versus Madison Bumgarner.
Madison Bumgarner is a very good pitcher. The Giants like him enough to buy out his arbitration years. His FIP, ERA, and xFIP are reminiscent of CC Sabathia’s numbers over the last two years. He’s good. But there are whispers about his ability to cope outside AT&T’s comfy confines. Concerns about his ability to keep the ball in the ballpark at times. Fears over his release point and a nagging tendency to show the ball to hitters early.
The Cardinals lineup is patient and powerful. If Bumgarner is shaky, as he was in the Division Series, the Cardinals will make him pay. The young lefty is murder on left-handed hitters, keeping the ball away from them as a rule and mixing his pitches brilliantly.
Mike Matheny sends out his lineup. He only has one.
- J. Jay cf
- C. Beltran rf
- M. Holliday lf
- A. Craig 1b
- Y. Molina c
- D. Freese 3b
- D. Descalso 2b
- P. Kozma ss
- L. Lynn p
Lance Lynn moves back into the starting rotation after pitching three times in relief during the Division Series. Lynn has a rather pronounced platoon split, though his fastball is nice enough to see him through. He won’t throw as hard as he did during his last relief outing (one very long batter faced in Game Four against the Nats) but Lynn is a solid strikeout pitcher whether starting or pitching in relief.
The Giants sent out their A-team, with Buster Posey behind the plate as he was ordained to do by the gods of baseball.
- A. Pagan cf
- M. Scutaro 2b
- P. Sandoval 3b
- B. Posey c
- H. Pence rf
- B. Belt 1b
- G. Blanco lf
- B. Crawford ss
- M. Bumgarner p