In San Francisco, look for the Giants - on at 1.75 - to prevail over the St. Louis Cardinals in game five of the National League Championship Series.
There’s such a difference in confidence – and pitching – between these two clubs coming into this Thursday contest.
Let’s begin with the starting pitching. The Giants’ Madison Baumgarner has been a beast this post-season. In game one of this series, the ace manhandled the Cardinals’ hitters for 7 2/3 innings, allowing just four hits and zero runs. In three playoff starts so far in 2014, he’s gone 23 2/3 innings and yielded a mere two earned runs.
In contrast, Adam Wainwright has been wobbly. When he faced off against Baumgarner in first game of the NLCS, he lasted only 4 2/3 innings, giving up six hits and three runs. That’s not good, but it was at least an improvement over his work in the NL Division Series, when the Los Angeles Dodgers slammed him for eleven hits and six runs in 4 1/3 innings. The bottom line is Wainwright is off his game and, unfortunately, if he’s hoping his bullpen will pick him up, he’s likely to be disappointed. The bullpen has yielded at least one run in each of the past three games – and multiple runs in two of those contests.
Beyond the pitching, the Cardinals just appear to be playing with less confidence. Their defence has been questionable and, with the exception of Kolten Wong’s walk off home run in game two of this series, their hitting just hasn’t been nearly as clutch as what the Giants’ hitters have offered.
Expect for the Giants to score first against the Cardinals in the NLDS.
I’ve chronicled the differing current trajectories of the starting pitchers coming into this game. It’s just clear that Wainwright is off his game, while Bumgarner is in a groove. Throw in the fact that San Francisco has been a better defensive team (which means cheap, unearned runs are less likely to be scored by the Cardinals) and the likely outcome here has the Giants drawing first blood.
While the Cardinals will hit first as the visiting team, the Giants familiarity and comfort at AT&T Park, which is typically a pitcher friendly stadium should also give them an edge in figuring out a way to push runs across early.