The San Francisco Giants shocked the world with their come-from-behind series victory against the Cincinnati Reds, and they’ll be looking to begin a similar comeback in Game 2 against the St. Louis Cardinals.
But that comeback isn’t going to start tonight.
The Cardinals were able to take Game 1 from the Giants on Sunday, winning 6-4. The win was primarily due to the strength of the Cardinals’ bats and bullpen, as starter Lance Lynn surrendered four runs in just under four innings.
That’s not likely to be the case tonight when Chris Carpenter takes the mound. Carpenter is a legitimate ace with great postseason credentials. His arm, combined with the Giants' struggles at home, spell a Game 2 victory for St. Louis.
Let’s first take a look at Chris Carpenter, St. Louis’s ace and one of the driving forces behind last season’s title push.
Carpenter underwent surgery in July to treat thoracic outlet syndrome, which can cause pain in the shoulder and neck. Originally ruled out for the entire season, Carpenter recovered and made his season debut on September 21st. He’s started just four games since then, but has delivered quality starts and looks like he’s rounding into form.
Carpenter told reporters (per the Associated Press):
"I feel good physically. I think my stuff has gotten better and better. And I'm hoping that that's the case for this next one here."
That’s nothing but bad news for San Francisco, who could’ve done without facing Carpenter in the postseason. Though Carpenter hasn’t seen the Giants yet this season, he holds a 4-1 lifetime record and posted a 3.57 ERA in eight starts against them.
Those are good numbers in their own right, but what makes matters worse for the Giants is the fact that Carpenter is a bit of a playoff wizard. The Cardinals’ ace is 10-2 in his 16 career playoff outings, and he boasts a postseason ERA of just 2.88.
Said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny (per the Associated Press):
"He's a competitor, like I've never seen. The guy just finds a different gear when it becomes his turn to do something special."
Carpenter showed that gear in last year’s postseason when he went 4-0 with a 3.25 ERA in six starts, leading St. Louis to a World Series title.
Look, Carpenter hasn’t seen this particular San Francisco squad much, so there’s no way of really knowing what’s going to happen when he takes the mound tonight. But history has shown that you should never bet against Chris Carpenter in the playoffs. He doesn’t often lose when the lights shine their brightest.
It seems unwise to start betting against him now.
Troubles at home have been a big trend this postseason not just with the Giants, but with pretty much everyone.
The home team has gone 9-16 in these playoffs and just 2-11 in the National League. That’s a flat-out terrible record, and the Giants are one of the worst offenders.
After losing Game 1 to the Cardinals yesterday, the Giants have dropped to 0-3 at home in the postseason. The thing is—these losses aren’t just fluke accidents or unlucky breaks—the Giants have just been playing horribly at AT&T Park.
The Giants are batting just .165 and have never scored first when at home in the playoffs. They have been outscored 20-6 in their three home games, a mark that’s actually better than it could be considering that the Giants were down 6-0 at one point in Sunday’s game.
The real problem is that these home woes have existed long before the postseason. According to the San Francisco Examiner’s Paul Gackle, the Giants have struggled scoring runs at AT&T Park all year.
Gackle reported that the Giants scored an average of 3.8 runs per game at home this season (good for 24th in the majors), compared to an average of 5.06 runs in opponents’ ballparks (good for second). He also said that the team hit just 31 home runs at home this year, the fewest they've hit since moving to AT&T Park 12 years ago.
That’s not a trend that can be fixed overnight, especially not with the Cardinals (who are 8-3 in NL road playoff games over the past two years) in town.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy recently said (via the Associated Press):
"We've shown how resilient we can be. We hate to lose them at home, but it happens. And we've got to wash this one off and come out and be ready to go tomorrow."
That’s easier said than done against a team like the Cardinals.
The Giants showed against the Reds that they’re capable of a few surprises. But they’ll have to wait a while to surprise the world again. The Giants’ home struggles will continue when the Cardinals take Game 2 tonight behind Chris Carpenter’s arm.