San Francisco Giants v St. Louis Cardinals
The San Francisco Giants may have sent the National League Championship Series to a decisive seventh game, but it’s the St. Louis Cardinals who will claim the final contest on the road. The Giants’ starter Matt Cain is the bigger name in this game’s pitching match-up, but it’s Kyle Lohse who has truly pitched like an ace this post-season. Lohse had a great regular season in 2012 – he was 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA - but this post-season he has been equally adept at getting ground balls and coaxing opposing hitters into making bad swings. He’s 2-0 with a 1.96 ERA in three play-off starts. But what was particularly impressive is how Lohse worked around a “bad day” in his last outing; the right-hander walked a season-high five batters in game three of this series, yet pitched around that lack of control – which also led to seven hits – to allow just one run in 5 2/3 innings pitched. That’s a good sign that he can succeed even on a bad night. It’s also worth pointing out that he’s pitched pretty well at AT&T Park in his career, going 3-1 with a 3.43 ERA in four career starts.
Like Lohse, Cain had a strong regular season, posting a 16-5 record and a 2.79 ERA. But in contrast, Cain’s post-season has been thoroughly ragged. He went 1-1 with a 5.06 ERA against the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Divisional Series and in his only start in this series he went 6 2/3 innings and allowed three runs to suffer the loss in game three (against Lohse). What was notable in that performance was that Cain, who during the regular season struck out about eight batters for each nine innings pitch, only punched out two hitters. Quite simply, it appears Cain isn’t at the top of his game. Go with the Cardinals (at 2.20) to return to the World Series as, barring a return to form from Cain, the Giants (1.67) will likely be calling it a season after this one.