For the Cardinals, the offense had to come alive to finish off the Washington Nationals, who were the winningest team in the National League. The Giants had to quiet the powerful bats of the Cincinnati Reds.
Now these teams will meet to determine who will represent the National League in the World Series. There are five key matchups that should make a difference in Game 1 and help set the tone for the series.
Yadier Molina had a difficult series against the Washington Nationals, only managing to hit .118. That obviously needs to change, and hitting against a left-handed starting pitcher might help (although I realize that it didn't help that much against Washington). This season, Molina, a right-handed hitter, hit .342 against left-handers.
Madison Bumgarner had a tough time against the Cincinnati Reds, losing his only start while giving up four earned runs in 4.1 innings. So he also needs to turn it around. Bumgarner held right-handed hitters to a .241 average this season.
Molina could be at the plate in run-producing situations, so Bumgarner really needs to contain him.
Buster Posey drove in five runs against the Cincinnati Reds, including a huge grand slam. So even though his batting average was .211, he seems to be doing what the Giants need. He has hit right-handers at a .292 clip this season, so there's really no reason to think that he will start slowing down at this point.
Lance Lynn came out of the bullpen for the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, and he had some difficulties in that role, going 1-1 in four appearances with a 7.36 ERA. However, he won 18 games this season and held right-handed hitters to a .237 average.
Despite his struggles against the Nationals, Lynn was effective in the regular season. His confrontation with Posey could be pivotal in this series.
Hunter Pence didn't drive in a single run for the San Francisco Giants in their NLDS series against the Cincinnati Reds. And the Giants don't have many options for power beyond Pence, so he becomes even more important as the playoffs go on.
Their pitching is solid, but they need as much run production as they can get.
Mitchell Boggs did not allow an earned run against the Washington Nationals (although there were two unearned runs), and he needs to keep pitching well near the end of the game. Boggs has been strong all season, going 4-1 with a 2.21 ERA, and he needs to continue shutting down the opposition.
Carlos Beltran carried the St. Louis Cardinals offense, hitting .444 batting and driving in four runs against the Washington Nationals. On top of that, he is a switch-hitter who is equally dangerous from both sides of the plate.
Sergio Romo is a right-handed pitcher who has held left-handed hitters to a .167 average. And Beltran will hit left-handed against Romo. If this matchup occurs, it will likely be in an important, game-changing situation late in the game.
Pablo Sandoval hit .333 against the Cincinnati Reds, and while he doesn't necessarily provide a lot of power, he has enough pop in his bat to change the game with one swing. As a switch-hitter, he did better against right-handed pitchers this season, hitting .299.
Jason Motte has had an incredibly strong season for the Cardinals, earning 42 of 49 possible saves, and even though he did not get a save against the Washington Nationals, he still pitched relatively well, earning a win and giving up only one earned run in 4.1 innings.
Motte has absolutely owned left-handed hitters, holding them to a .122 average and only two home runs in 123 at-bats. Since he would only be appearing in a save situation, this matchup would be a clutch moment for Sandoval as well.
Although he struggled against the Washington Nationals, he is still one of the best all-around hitters in Major League Baseball. He can hit for average and power, and you know that he is going to break out eventually.
He has also had difficulties this postseason, but after leading the National League with 15 triples this season, it is obvious that he can easily turn on his speed to change the game at any point. He is vastly underrated but very important.
The Cardinals are riding a strong wave of momentum. After coming back from a 6-0 deficit and ultimately winning Game 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals in extra innings, they are primed to keep rolling.
Combine that with Lance Lynn's effectiveness for most of the season, and you have to think the Cardinals will have the advantage in Game 1.
Cardinals 3, Giants 1
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