Cardinals-Giants NLCS Game 7 Preview
(AP) — The San Francisco Giants have made a habit of winning elimination games this year, but that’s a situation the St. Louis Cardinals excel in as well.
The Giants are 5-0 while facing elimination this postseason and once again will have Matt Cain on the mound in a decisive contest Monday night when they host the Cardinals in Game 7 of the NL championship series.
San Francisco rallied to win its division series over Cincinnati after losing the first two games at home. The Giants trailed 3-1 in this series against the defending World Series champions before winning 5-0 in Game 5 on the road Friday and 6-1 in Sunday’s Game 6.
The 2010 World Series champions seemingly have all the momentum now.
“There are two teams in the same boat right now. You’ll see two teams go out and give it everything they’ve got,” Giants reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. “This is what we play all year for and we’ll put it all on the line. This is Game 7. There’s only one better Game 7. They are no more what-if scenarios.”
The Cardinals went 4-0 in elimination games in last year’s postseason and are 2-0 in such contests in 2012. To keep that trend going, they’ll have to revive an offense that has totaled 12 hits and 19 strikeouts in the club’s back-to-back defeats.
“We’ve got to make some adjustments but our team’s done that all season,” manager Mike Matheny said. “One thing I know is these guys take these to heart.”
Cain (1-2, 4.67 ERA) will try to duplicate what he did in the previous round, when he bounced back from losing his first outing to capture his second one. He yielded three runs over 5 2-3 innings to earn a 6-4 victory over the Reds in Game 5.
“For some reason it seems like I wouldn’t say we like it, but it seems like guys are playing really well when we get in this situation,” Cain said. “Guys are just kind of letting it all hang out and it seems to be working out really well.”
The right-hander gave up three runs over 6 2-3 innings Wednesday in a 3-1 loss at St. Louis in Game 3. Including that outing, he’s 1-2 with a 5.89 ERA in three starts against the Cardinals this year.
The St. Louis hitters that have given Cain the most trouble this year are Matt Carpenter (5 for 6, including a homer in Game 3) and Jon Jay (4 for 5).
Cain will again face fellow 16-game winner Kyle Lohse (2-0, 1.96), who allowed only one run despite yielding seven hits and five walks over 5 2-3 innings Wednesday.
Lohse has been much better in the postseason than he was last year when he went 0-2 with a 7.82 ERA in three starts. The right-hander is 3-1 with a 3.42 ERA in four career starts at San Francisco.
There’s a forecast of rain in the Bay Area during the day, but Lohse isn’t surprised by that.
“It’s kind of a joke in the clubhouse. About 60 percent of my games have rain in the forecast,” Lohse said. “I know these guys, I’ve seen them for six games. I know what I need to do. … It’s time to get it done.”
Lohse will try to successfully follow up what Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong have done to St. Louis the last two games. Zito pitched 7 2-3 innings in Game 5 and Vogelsong struck out nine over seven innings Sunday.
Marco Scutaro went 2 for 3 with two RBIs in Game 6. Scutaro has hit safely in nine straight playoff games and is batting .458 (11 for 24) during the NLCS.
“I don’t really know, man,” Scutaro said when asked to explain it. “Just excited to come to the field every day. … Being in this opportunity, just being in the playoffs, is amazing.”
Scutaro has helped pick up the slack with MVP candidate Buster Posey going 3 for 22 in the series and Hunter Pence 3 for 23.
It’s unclear if St. Louis left fielder Matt Holliday will be available after he was scratched from the lineup just before Game 6 because of lower back tightness.
“Right now his back tightened up, even a little bit more as we went through the game,” Matheny said. “We’ll see when we get here tomorrow.”
Allen Craig shifted from first base to left field, with Carpenter playing first.
The Giants have lost all three Game 7s in their history since moving to San Francisco, falling to Anaheim in the 2002 World Series, the Cardinals in the 1987 NLCS and the Yankees in the 1962 World Series.
The Cardinals have captured their last three Game 7s since losing to Atlanta in the 1996 NLCS. That’s the only other time St. Louis led 3-1 in the NLCS.
The winner will host AL champion Detroit in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday.