NLCS GAME 1: Mirror, Mirror
The Cardinals and the Giants both spent the first four innings pounding the opposing starters for ten total runs. Then the respective bullpens took over, and they allowed one hit through ten total innings. Fortunately the Cardinals hit for a bit more power, as they ripped the Giants 6-4 to nab a 1-0 lead in the NLCS.
OUT OF GAS: Some of my fears about Lance Lynn were realized tonight. His fastball, still clocking in the mid-nineties, has seemed flatter and less effective in the second half of the season. The 18-game winner and All Star found himself banished to the bullpen because of it, and he generally hasn’t looked the same since. Handed the opening game of the NLCS, Lynn pitched effectively for three innings before imploding disastrously in the fourth. His final line isn’t pretty: 3.2 innings, 5 hits, 4 earned runs before being bailed out with one pitch by Joe Kelly. It’s not what the Cardinals needed against the pitching-rich Giants.
BOMBS AWAY: The Cardinals offense exploded against the Giants, blasting them with two 2-run homers from David Freese and Carlos Beltran. For Beltran, the round-tripper was his 14th postseason homer – AMAZING! The offense was also boosted by key hits from Wonder Twins Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma. It was great to see them land a few solid offensive punches early for a change.
LOCKDOWN: When the Giants returned the punches in the fourth, Matheny went to the bullpen. The succession of pitchers used – Joe Kelly, Marc Rzepczynski, Trevor Rosenthal, Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs, and Jason Motte – proved impregnable, surrendering just two hits over five innings. Let’s just say it right now: without the bullpen doing this kind of work, these Cardinals would already be fishing. I wish the starting rotation would solidify like this group of superb bullpen arms.
TROUBLING: I can’t help but be concerned about Matheny’s use of the bullpen tonight, though. Why waste Kelly in a one-pitch appearance, forcing the use of Rosenthal as well? If Chris Carpenter struggles tomorrow night, who do we turn to after using five arms tonight? Fernando Salas and … ?
THE BIG D: The Cardinals have been playing their hearts out in the field lately. Tonight saw more desperate, all-out defense from the likes of Jon Jay and Descalso. Descalso’s diving play was particularly crucial, as it ended the Giants’ rally in the fourth on a grounder by Angel Pagan with two runners on. For a team that seemed to struggle with defense for periods of time this season, they certainly are putting their best effort forward when it counts.
KEY TO WINNING: You’re going to win a lot of games against the Giants when you limit Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey to no hits in six at-bats with three strikeouts like the Cardinals did tonight. How long can we keep these two at bay? Hopefully three more games!
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Beltran for the game-winner, and the bullpen for an amazing collective performance!
CONCLUSION: When I said that the Cardinals and Giants were similar teams, I didn’t think they’d be THIS similar. The two teams had almost identical games, with the Cardinals edging them with one potent swing of the bat. I suspect this won’t be the last game of this type in this series.