It’s the two most beautiful words not just in baseball, but in all of sports. Game seven. One game decides your playoff fate. Everything you’ve put into the season comes down to one game where one pitch, one swing, one call, one stolen base, one error can be the difference. The San Francisco Giants brought us to these two words with their 6-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday night. Monday night at AT&T Park the Giants will look to come back from two games down for the 2nd straight series and advance. Let’s try and figure out who will win.
Starting Pitcher: Kyle Lohse vs. Matt Cain
Have to start with the scheduled starters. Both of these starters have arguably had a career year in 2012 and this game will define how they look back on this season. Lohse has been great this postseason with a 1.96 ERA including giving up just one earned run over 5.2 innings in a victory over the Giants in game three. Lohse was erratic though giving up 5 walks. Lohse has has a history of not coming up big in huge games (see 2011 playoffs), but may have turned a new leaf in 2012. Cain, on the other hand, has been “Bizarro Lohse.” He was spectacular in big games previously (see 2010 playoffs), but has given up three runs in each start this postseason. Cain got the win for San Francisco in game five against the Reds. This one is close, but give me the previous elimination game winner.
Both bullpens have been spectacular this series. I’m sure everyone is going to be available for Monday’s game. Jason Motte has become the big closer everyone thought he would be. Sergio Romo has taken control of the closer role for the Giants and has the best slider in the game. I think Mike Matheny left Chris Carpenter in game six through four innings to try and preserve his bullpen for a potential game seven. St. Louis ended up using Shelby Miller for two innings, Fernando Salas for 1.1 innings, Marc Rzepczynski and Edward Mujica for 1/3 of an inning each. Not on that list is Trevor Rosenthal and Jason Motte. The Giants had to use their standard of Jeremy Affeldt (.2 IP), Santiago Casilla (.1 IP), and Romo (1 IP) to lock down a game seven. I would not be surprised if we see Motte come in for a six-out save in game seven if needed. This one is tough.
Slight Advantage: Cardinals
The big question stemming from game six is will Matt Holliday be ready to play? He may not be 100%, but if you think he’s missing this game I’ve got a giant bridge in San Francisco to sell you. Buster Posey has been completely off offensively this series, hitting just .136. Posey does have a flair for the deciding game dramatic as he hit a grand slam in game five of the NLDS against Cincinnati. Marco Scutaro has been the hot bat for San Francisco hitting .458. The other big question for the Cardinals lineup is with Holliday back, is there room for Matt Carpenter? Carpenter owns Matt Cain it seems and had a home run off him in game three. I think overall with Holliday, Yadier Molina, Allen Craig, Carlos Beltran, and David Freese this should be good for St. Louis.
Manager: Mike Matheny vs. Bruce Bochy
I have nothing against Mike Matheny, but his team almost blew a 2-1 lead in the NLDS against the Nationals. His team has now blown a 3-1 lead in the NLCS against the Giants. It’s his first season. It’s his first playoffs. Give me the guy with the World Series ring on his hand, even though I’m sure Matheny is making a call to Tony LaRussa tonight.
The Giants have now won five straight eliminations games in these playoffs, only the 1985 Royals won more elimination games in a single postseason with six. The Cardinals have won six straight elimination games, dating back to 2002, where they lost to….you guessed it! The Giants. Mike Matheny could become the first rookie manager to lead his team to the World Series since Bob Brenly got the Diamondbacks there in 2001. The Giants have never won a game 7 as a team, they are 0-5, the worst mark in MLB history. This is the first game seven in the NLCS since 2006, where the Cardinals beat the Mets.
I reached out to my fellow podcasters for their predictions. Here’s what they have.
Jeremy Dorn: Cardinals 345, Giants 0. No really, 5-3 St. Louis. Lohse has been better than Cain this postseason and the Cards have never lost a game 7 right?
Brian Boynton: Giants 6-5
Kurt Peter: Giants 5-2
Angelo Feliccia: Lots of rain to help out my Tigers in the World Series. I’ll take the Giants 4-0, but I could see Romo blowing this game though late.
Final Mapes Prediction: Buster Posey shows why he’s the MVP and gets another big hit for the Giants. While Lohse is erratic once again forcing Matheny to go to the bullpen earlier than he’d like and is bailed out by Rosenthal, Mujica, and Motte. It’ll be too late as Cain gets the job done over seven innings and turns the ball over to Affeldt and then Romo. Then again, it’s baseball, nothing is EVER that simple. Giants 4 Cardinals 2, enjoy game seven everybody!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)