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Giants vs. Cardinals: 5 Biggest Matchups in Game 4 of NLCS

Brandon CroceAnalyst IApril 5, 2015

Giants vs. Cardinals: 5 Biggest Matchups in Game 4 of NLCS

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    After a rain delay that lasted more than three hours, the Cardinals came up with a 3-1 win in Game 3 to take a 2-1 lead over the San Francisco Giants. Game 4 will be pivotal for both clubs as the Cardinals will be looking to take a commanding 3-1 lead while the Giants hope to tie the series back up.

    The Giants are no stranger to playing from behind, as they dropped their first two games at home against the Reds in the LDS before winning three straight in Cincinnati to clinch the series. Still, I'm sure falling down 3-1 is not ideal for this team.

    The Giants will be looking to Tim Lincecum to get them back in the win column as he faces off against the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright. These are the top five matchups to watch for in this key Game 4 contest.

Regular-Season Tim Lincecum vs. Postseason Tim Lincecum

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    To say Tim Lincecum struggled during the regular season would be a major understatement. The Freak was not what fans had come to expect, as he finished the season 10-15 with a 5.58 ERA.

    Bruce Bochy decided to move Lincecum into the bullpen at the start of this postseason and The Freak looks to be back to his old self as he has given up only one earned run over 8.1 innings of work. Now that the playoffs have shifted to a seven-game series Bochy needs to extend his pitching rotation, and who better to plug in then a two-time Cy Young winner?

    It will be interesting to see which pitcher, regular-season Lincecum or postseason Lincecum, shows up in this must-win game for the Giants.

Carlos Beltran vs. His Knee

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    Carlos Beltran has been one of the best hitters this postseason, and unfortunately for the Cardinals, is day to day after leaving Game 3 with a knee sprain and is questionable for Game 4. He leads all postseason hitters with eight extra-base hits and is first on his team with a .400 batting average.

    Beltran has been one of the best postseason hitters in the history of the game with a record .375 batting average, and if he's out for an extended period of time this would be a major blow to the Cardinals.

Giants Hitters vs. Adam Wainwright

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    Adam Wainwright has not had a great postseason so far, giving up seven runs in only eight innings pitched. He could only go 2.1 innings in his last start against the Nationals, which was one of the worst in his career. 

    However, a game against the Giants may be just what Wainwright needs to get back on track. In two starts this season against San Francisco, he has a 2.13 ERA and averaged over six innings pitched per game. 

    Giants hitters have hit Wainwright pretty well over their careers, combining for a .298 batting average, though they only managed nine extra-base hits in 188 at-bats.  

    If history repeats itself, Wainwright should be in line to help push the Cardinals to a 3-1 series lead.

Jason Motte vs. Sergio Romo

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    It should be no surprise that when the two previous World Series Champions face off, they would end up playing in close games. Both bullpens for these teams could have a major impact on the final outcome, and more specifically, their closers. The Cardinals have called on Jason Motte twice this series and he has come through both times.

    Giants closer Sergio Romo (who had one of the best ERA for relievers this season) could raise a little bit more concern as he has had very little postseason experience. Prior to this season, the closer role hasn't really been a concern for the Giants with "Fear the Beard" Brian Wilson, but he hasn't been available at all due to Tommy John surgery. 

    Being a closer in baseball is pretty stressful, however, the pressure is dialed way up come postseason time. Motte has already proven himself during last season's postseason, but if the Giants have the lead and are looking at a save situation, it will be interesting to see if Sergio Romo rises to the challenge.

Bruce Bochy vs. Mike Matheny

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    One underlying storyline for this postseason has been whether Mike Matheny's managerial inexperience would affect his team, and he has passed with flying colors so far. He got out-coached in Game 1 of the NLCS against Davey Johnson and the Nationals, but has been wise beyond his years since then.

    He now is matching wits with another World Series championship manager in Bruce Bochy, and so far has won that battle. He has made great moves with his bullpen and has led his team in two close victories. With both teams most likely heading to another close game, managerial decisions could play a big role in the final outcome.

Players to Watch

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    Hunter Pence

    The San Francisco Giants need Hunter Pence to wake up at the plate and see some return on their midseason acquisition So far this series, he is 1-for-11 and has not had a hit since Game 1. Pence could be in line for a good game, as he has hit .289 against Wainwright and is the only Giant to hit a home run off of him.

    Matt Holliday

    With Carlos Beltran possibly being out of Game 4 with the knee injury, there is more pressure now on outfielder Matt Holliday to do some damage at the plate. Holliday has not had a single RBI this series and has not had a home run in the past eight games. If Holliday has a good day at the plate, the Cardinals should get the win here.

Game Prediction

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    The Giants should be jumping for joy at the end of this one as I see Tim Lincecum continuing a good postseason and returning to Cy Young form. It will be another close game and Sergio Romo should get his first taste of the NLCS and close it out for the Giants.

    Giants over Cardinals 3-2

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