When: 8:07 p.m. ET
Where: Busch Stadium
Starters: Barry Zito (0-0, 6.75 ERA) vs. Lance Lynn (1-1, 8.59 ERA)
Heading into Game 5 of the National League Championship Series the San Francisco Giants face yet another elimination game in the playoffs. This time, however, they won’t be so lucky.
After an 8-3 victory on Thursday, the Cardinals have taken a commanding 3-1 lead over the Giants in the first NLCS to ever pin the two former MLB champions against each other.
Since Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals, the Cardinals have come alive. They have scored more than six runs in five different games and have held teams to under three runs in four games.
In the National League Division Series, the San Francisco Giants came back from a 2-0 deficit to take three games in a row in Cincinnati.
So who is to say they can’t come back again this time?
According to ESPN Stats & Info on Twitter, “The Giants have trailed 3-1 in a best-of-7 series on 5 previous occasions & went on to lose all 5 series (2 of last 3 ended in 5 games)."
If history is telling of what is to happen, the Cardinals should have no problem winning this series. As far as Friday night’s game goes, though, let's take a look at the actual reasons the Cardinals will advance to the World Series after Game 5.
The Clutch Lineup
In Barry Zito’s one start against the St. Louis in 2012, Zito pitched 6 ⅔ innings, allowed two runs and got the win.
In his career, however, Zito has not fared so well against the Cardinals. At Busch Stadium, Zito is 1-3 with an 8.20 ERA. His career totals against St. Louis are 2-6 with a 4.89 ERA.
With Zito on the hill, the Cardinals lineup should flourish in front of the home fans, especially with Carlos Beltran back in the lineup. In the 2012 postseason, Beltran is hitting .400 with three home runs.
Clutch hitting with runners in scoring position has been the recipe to the Cardinals offensive success in the NLCS.
Yadier Molina has gotten a hit in each of the first four games of this series, Matt Holliday, Pete Kozma and Jon Jay have come up with some very timely hitting that has driven in some huge runs and David Freese continues to add a spark of power from third base.
In fact, if Freese gets a hit in his first at bat on Friday, he would have more hits in his first 100 postseason at bats than anyone in MLB history, says ESPN Stats & Info.
The Cardinals have been all over lefty pitchers in 2012 and Game 5 against Zito should be no different. Expect another early call to the Giants Bullpen Friday.
After lasting just 3 ⅔ inning against the Giants in Game 1 of the NLCS, Lance Lynn returns to the mound to try and punch the Cardinals’ ticket to the 2012 World Series against the Detroit Tigers.
Switching between the bullpen and the starting rotation in 2012, Lynn went 9-4 with a 3.28 ERA while pitching at Busch Stadium this season.
In Game 1, Lynn coasted through the first three innings only to allow four earned runs on five hits in the fourth inning.
On Friday, Lynn faces a San Francisco Giants lineup that is slumping. In the NLCS thus far, Buster Posey has hit just 2-14 without an RBI and slugger Pablo Sandoval has gone 4-17 with just three RBI.
The Cardinals bats are going to be alive with Zito on the hill for the Giants tonight. If Lynn is able to keep the Giants batters off balanced and off the base paths throughout the game, St. Louis should be headed to the World Series without a problem.
"I'm as strong as I've ever been all year, and the playoff start was good to get one," Lynn said. "Wish I could have done better the first time, but I got a lot to learn from that one. I'm looking forward to the next one."
The St. Louis bullpen features a group of flamethrowers that have been essentially unhittable in this postseason.
On three occasions in the playoffs this season, a Cardinal starting pitcher has been pulled early only to be bailed out by one of the many weapons St. Louis has in relief.
In Game 2 on the NLDS against the Washington Nationals, Jaime Garcia was taken out after two innings. Lynn, Joe Kelly, Edward Mujica, Mitchell Boggs and Trevor Rosenthal held the Nationals offense to just three runs over seven innings to seal the win.
After starting pitcher Adam Wainwright allowed six runs over the first 2 ⅓ innings in Game 5 of the NLDS, the bullpen stepped up once again and helped solidify the Cardinals comeback by holding the Nationals to just one more run.
And finally, in Game 1 of the NLCS, Mujica and the St. Louis bullpen shut down the Giants offense for the final 5 ⅓ innings to take the first game of the series on the road.
If Zito is not able to contain the Cardinals offense and the Giants fall behind early, they are going to have an extremely difficult time catching up against the hottest bullpen in the playoffs.