The Cardinals had their chances to put the Giants away after taking a 3-1 series lead. Barry Zito pitched the best game of his life in game 5, and Ryan Vogelsong, with the help of umpire Jerry Layne, carved up the Cards in game 6. Layne wasn’t all that bad, but he gave Vogelsong the benefit of the doubt on balls off the corner more than Chris Carpenter. Fans are complaining about the slow hook Mike Matheny had with Lance Lynn in game 5, and it’s hard to argue with them. A streak is going to end tonight, as the Giants have won 5 straight elimination games in 2012 and the Cards have won 6 straight elimination games going back to the NLDS in 2011.
If anybody would have said the Cardinals would have beat Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner in 3 games and still be tied at 3-3 in a 7 game series, I wouldn’t have believed them. I’m not quite sure what to make of it. History is on the Giants side in game 7. In the last 14 LCS and WS games in which the home team was down 3-1 and came back to tie it 3-3, the home team has won game 13 times. Even with that said, there seems to be something about this group of guys on the Cardinals who play their best with their backs up against the wall.
Matheny is going to have some interesting choices to make when he makes out the lineup tonight. Matt Carpenter is 5 for 6 off of Cain, and with the quality AB’s he’s been taking, he needs to be in there. If Matt Holliday is less than 100% with his back, I think it’s a no brainer. If not, I think Carpenter may need to play for Allen Craig. If the Giants score first and look to have Kyle Lohse on the ropes early, Matheny has got to have a quicker hook and be ready to bring in the big guns in Trevor Rosenthal or Joe Kelly to stop the bleeding. Adam Wainwright will also be available for an inning or two if needed.
Carpenter didn’t deserve the hand he was dealt in this series. In all, he gave up 10 runs, but only 4 of them were earned. A couple of bloopers and some bad luck, but these things happen.
There’s no need to try and predict a winner. In my gut, I always thought this series would go 7 games. I’m not too thrilled about facing and having to beat Cain for a 2nd time, but it is what it is. By this time tomorrow, I’ll either be talking about a Cardinals-Tigers WS or waiting a few days to talk about the experience Matheny got in his rookie year, the prospects in the Cards system and how bright the future of Cards baseball is. It’s been a wonderful ride, I just hope it’s not over yet.