Giants, Cardinals' bats set to explode
By MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency
|St. Louis Cardinals Matt Carpenter hits a third inning two-run home run against the San Francisco Giants during Game 3 of their MLB NLCS playoff baseball series in St. Louis, Missouri, October 17, 2012. (REUTERS)
ST. LOUIS - They say that chicks dig the long ball and in this NLCS, it has proven to be one of the difference makers heading into Game 4.
After the first three games, the St. Louis Cardinals hold a 2-1 lead over the San Francisco Giants with the home run or the ability to hit the long ball being a major factor.
Heading into the series, the Cardinals held a decisive advantage when it came to power as their lineup sports six players who have hit 20 or more home runs. As a team they slugged 159.
The Giants, meanwhile, have just two players who nudged over the 20-homer plateau — Buster Posey and Hunter Pence. Pence, though, hit the bulk of his homers with the Phillies. With the Giants he hit just seven in 59 games and has hit none in the post-season.
In Wednesday’s loss, the Giants banged out more hits than the Cardinals — 9 to 6 — but still lost, the reason being a two-run home run by Matt Carpenter, who entered the game as a replacement for the injured Carlos Beltran, coupled with their inability to hit in the clutch — the Giants went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
The Cardinals have slugged three homers in this series, all of them two-run shots. The Giants, who hit just 103 homers on the season, have just one — a solo blast.
The Giants offence is built around their ability to string together a bunch of hits as they did in the fourth inning of each of the first two games when in both games they scored four in the fourth.
The Cardinals, meanwhile, are the more lethal team and are able to play Earl Weaver baseball — the three run home run — at any point in time.
Overall, the Giants are hitting .272 to the Cardinals .198 but still trail in the series.
The fact that Carpenter came off the bench to jolt one out against Matt Cain in place of Beltran on Wednesday just rubbed more salt into the wound.
Carpenter came into the game having gone 4-for-4 against Cain in his career, but still.
“With Carlos being out, that’s something you want to take advantage of,” Cain said after Wednesday’s game. “I didn’t do a good job of it.”
But Carpenter did.
“When guys get hurt, especially a guy like Carlos, sometimes that can be a letdown from an energy standpoint,” Carpenter said. “I wanted to do something that would bring some life back to the dugout, and I was glad I could get it done.”
He did. The Giants couldn’t.
One of the significant developments in the wake of Cain’s solid outing and his ability to pitch into the seventh was that Giants manager Bruce Bochy didn’t need to use Tim Lincecum in relief to soak up a couple of innings. If he had, Lincecum would be stuck in the bullpen.
But now he’s shaken free of those shackles and will be making his first post-season start of 2012 in Thursday’s Game 4.
A two-time Cy Young winner, Lincecum has had a mystifying season as he ended the regular season 10-15 and with a dreadful 5.18 ERA. Lack of command of his fastball is cited as reason No. 1.
Lincecum is a slight man and this game will weigh heavily on his shoulders. He certainly has the pedigree to rise to the occasion and the Giants will need a good one.
If they lose this one and go down 3-1 — well, you do the math.
“He’s the guy we want out there,” Bochy said. “We’ve got to bounce back. It’s great to have a guy like Timmy all set to go.”
He better be.
The elevation of Lincecum into the rotation also knocked left-hander Madison Bumgarner, the starter in Game 1, out of the rotation. One in, one out. Actually it’s two in as veteran Barry Zito will make the start in Game 5 on Friday.
“I think it’s time to give Madison a little break,” Bochy said. “He’s been pitching a lot of innings and we feel at this point we’re better off giving him a little break and going with Zito, who’s done a nice job for us.”
WHERE’S THE BEEF?
One of the top storylines heading into this series was that it featured two of the best catchers in the game, both coming off solid offensive seasons.
In the opening three games, however, they have been all but invisible. The Cardinals Yadier Molina, so far, is 3-for-12 (.250) without an RBI. The Giants Buster Posey is 2-for-10 (.200) and also has yet to drive in a run.
Posey is now being pitched around.
In truth, the middle of the order for both lineups has gone limp.
On the Cardinals, Allen Craig, their cleanup hitter, is 0-for-9. Matt Holliday is 2-for-12 (.167) and again, zero RBIs.
It doesn’t get any better for the Giants.
Pablo Sandoval, their No. 3 hitter, is 1-for-10 (.100) without an RBI. Posey hits fourth and Hunter Pence, the self-proclaimed hitting goat of Game 3, is 1-for-11 (.091) with zero RBIs.
It’s about time for one of the lineups to erupt and do some serious damage.