After one of the wildest National League Division Series in the history of the sport, the San Francisco Giants will square off against the St. Louis Cardinals in one of the most surprising National League Championship Series of all time.
This is what playoff baseball is all about.
With enough World Series hardware between the teams to throw the experience factor out the window, this series starting from Game 1 will be the most exciting playoff baseball we witness all postseason.
Each team feels it is on borrowed time and refuses to give up without a fight, which will make for a memorable NLCS.
Who ya got in Game 1?
Where: AT&T Park, San Francisco
When: Sunday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. ET
What They’re Saying
Cardinals closer Jason Motte told the Associated Press (via ESPN) about the resilience of St. Louis after coming back from being down six runs in Game 5 of the NLDS:
These guys just prove what big hearts they have and how much they go out there and work their butts off. Someone asked me last night how we keep doing it, and I said, "I don't know, maybe we're just stubborn. We just don't give up." That's kind of how you have to be.
San Francisco head coach Bruce Bochy told the Associated Press (via ESPN) about his respect for what the Cardinals achieved already and what he expects from the series:
Both teams had their backs against the wall. It's impressive what the Cardinals did. And, really, if you look at the game we had and the game they had, they were similar. We were up 6-0, barely hung on, and they found a way to get it done. ... I think that says a lot about the two clubs, the character of the clubs and how hard they fight—and it should be a really hard-fought series here.
Players to Watch
Game 1 Starters
Lance Lynn (STL) vs. Madison Bumgarner (SF)
While this pitching matchup isn’t the prototypical Game 1 of a series with both team’s aces going head-to-head, this is what real playoff baseball is.
Each team was pushed to its limit and had to use its top pitching star to advance to the NLCS. This time of year, depth in the rotation and in the bullpen makes or breaks a season.
With that said, the Cardinals and the Giants have depth and talent in both spots and will show that when unheralded St. Louis star Lance Lynn squares off with San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner.
Neither pitcher will take home many year-end awards, but they are each capable of throwing seven innings of stellar baseball and handing the ball off to their respective bullpens—something that will be imperative to walking away from this series victorious.
The key to this game will be which team can get its opponent’s starter in trouble first.
Carlos Beltran, OF, St. Louis Cardinals
With the absence of Albert Pujols this season, the St. Louis Cardinals have deployed the tactic of depending on everyone to contribute just as they did last year. The key difference this time around, though, is veteran Carlos Beltran.
Beltran didn’t have his best statistical season in 2012, but he got hot in the latter portion of the year and carried that into the postseason. With a .409 average against the Washington Nationals, the veteran slugger saved his best for the playoffs.
The Cardinals have shifted Beltran to No. 2 in the lineup to add a spark, and it has worked. With six runs in the NLDS, the St. Louis star has been the biggest key to the team’s offensive successes.
Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants
As much as Beltran has been the star for the Cardinals, the San Francisco Giants lean even more heavily on their biggest offensive weapon, Buster Posey, to be the team’s catalyst.
The team barely made it past the Cincinnati Reds in the previous series, but luckily for the Giants, Posey found his offensive rhythm in Game 5 and hit the grand slam that put his team in the lead for good.
If Posey can carry that hot swing over to the NLCS against the Cardinals, there is no doubt that this battle of recent World Series winners could be as intriguing as any series we see all postseason.
Baseball fans rejoice: This series will be glorious.
Check back for more on the Major League Baseball as it comes, and don’t miss Bleacher Report’s MLB page to get your fill of all things baseball.