AT&T PARK — Since 2010, two teams have cornered the market on National League Championship Series appearances.
The San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals battled each other for seven games in 2012, and 2014 promises to scribe another theatrical chapter into their storied postseason rivalry.
The Giants will sojourn in St. Louis starting Saturday for the National League pennant in a city that has hosted the NLCS four straight seasons.
It’s been a tale of two cities for Wainwright against the Giants. His first meeting, May 30 in St. Louis, was the worst start of his 20-win season, one in which the Giants jumped him for seven runs over 4-1/3 innings.
His last performance against the Giants July 2 in San Francisco was a four-hit gem over 7-2/3 innings that led to a 2-0 Cardinals win.
Who knows which Wainwright comes to play Saturday, but he’ll look to improve from his horrendous start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLDS.
Bumgarner is coming off a loss of his own. His arm strength betrayed him in Game 3 of the NLDS, and an errant throw to third base lost the game, even though he hurled zeroes in every inning prior.
Peavy has been tougher against Cardinals hitters. With 87 career at-bats, present Cardinals have just 19 hits (.218).
An odd subplot in Peavy’s San Francisco tenure are his pants. Before Wednesday’s workout at AT&T Park, Peavy said he’s been wearing fellow Giants starter Tim Hudson‘s pants every game since his arrival.
Superstition dictates he won’t get his own pair Sunday. The Giants No. 2 is 7-4 with a 2.03 ERA since his trade to the Giants, including the postseason.
Hudson (0-0, 1.23 ERA) will take his pants back for Game 3 of the series and face John Lackey (1-0. 1.29 ERA).
The 35-year-old Lackey is coming off a Game 3 NLDS win against the Dodgers. Lackey’s no stranger to big postseason games; Giants fans might remember him from Game 7 of the 2002 World Series.
As a rookie, Lackey tossed five innings of one-run ball to clinch the title for the Angels.
This is the deepest Hudson has ever ventured into the postseason. He lost in the ALDS four consecutive times with the A’s from 2000 to 2003. An additional two rounds of woe befell his Atlanta Braves teams in 2005 and 2010.
Hudson has seen a lot in his career, and said he favors the makeup of this year’s club over any other:
“On paper, it may not be the flashiest group of guys compared to a lot teams that were in the playoffs this year. I’ll take this group ahead of anybody.”
Vogelsong has established himself as a postseason folk hero for the Giants. The team has never lost a postseason game with him on the mound. It helps when the guy hasn’t allowed anything more than an earned run in every postseason start.
Miller is the polar opposite of Vogelsong it terms of experience. The newly turned 24-year-old has one postseason start in his two-year career. That was Tuesday’s series-ending win against the Dodgers.
Games 4 through 7 have yet to be determined, but should look to turn over pitching-wise.
The only significant, quantifiable change in the Giants’ NLCS roster registers 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds: Michael Morse is scheduled to rejoin the Giants.
Morse jetted to Arizona Wednesday to swing against live pitching. He’ll play a game Thursday and should be activated before Game 1.
Manager Bruce Bochy expects Morse to be with the team Friday barring any setbacks:
“If all goes well, anticipate Morse being on this next roster.”
With all Cardinals starters being right-handed, Bochy didn’t say whether Morse would start over lefty Travis Ishikawa:
“It could make it easier. At the same time, you’ve got a decision to make with Morse. So on Friday, I’ll get a chance to look at him… and we’ll see where we’re at.”
The right-handed slugger was high up in most power categories for the Giants during the regular season. He’s been sidelined since the end of August with an oblique strain.
Rookie Gary Brown is likely the odd man out if Morse returns.
One rookie that will stay with the team is flame-throwing reliever Hunter Strickland.
Bochy has shown faith in Strickland despite last series’ struggles against baseball-aviation enthusiast Bryce Harper:
“He was throwing 97, 98 [MPH]. He doesn’t back down… Hey, the kid gave up a home run. He’ll learn.”
Harper blasted two of his three NLDS home runs off Strickland.
“He does the little things right. He’s going to give you a solid at-bat. He’s a solid defender. He’s just a good teammate. We’re excited to have him.”
The NLCS starts at 5:07 p.m. PDT Saturday on FOX.