St. Louis Cardinals +115 at San Francisco Giants -124 (Total: 7)
Lance Lynn vs. Madison Baumgarner
By all accounts, neither of these teams are likely to still be alive. The Giants dropped their first two games at home in the NLDS, only to storm back and win three straight in Cincinnati to advance. The Cardinals were twice one STRIKE away from losing to the Nationals, but did what these Cardinals do, found some way to survive and prevail. According to Stats LLS, the Cardinal comeback was the largest comeback in a do-or-die elimination game in the history of major league baseball. It makes the Giants becoming the first team to go down 0-2 and win three straight on the road look downright boring.
Regardless, the result is a fantastic matchup between the last two World Series Champs for a berth to go back to the World Series and try to do it again.
As even as the storylines are, the matchup is equally even. The teams split their six meetings this season, and the total run differential was 30-22 in the Giants favor, but much of that is due to a “throw-it out fluky day” 15-0 win they notched in August. One could make a good argument that both these teams are significantly stronger now than they were two months ago; the Cardinals with Chris Carpenter back and looking healthy, and the Giants Tim Lincecum coming off a series in which he pitched as well as he had all season and good enough to likely find him back in the starting rotation this series. If either of the former Cy Young winners regain their form, this series becomes even more compelling.
The offensive statistics on the season are very even as well. The Cardinals offense gets more attention, but their team batting average was only a few points higher than the Giants (.265 to .261) and they scored just an average of .22 more runs per game. Pitching, both have been very good as well. The Giants team ERA .01 higher (3.69 to 3.68) but their relief corp has been slightly better (.22 lower). In short, by nearly every objective measure, this series is incredibly evenly matched. So do you go with the Cardinal magic or the Giant home field advantage?
Tonight, I go with the home field edge, if forced to pick, but my official play of the OVER 7. Lance Lynn hasn’t started a game in three weeks, and his last time on the field he surrendered the walkoff blast to Jayson Werth. His ERA on the season was close to 4.00 and he hasn’t thrown a quality start against a team with a .500 or better record in his last seven outings. Baumgarner had an amazing first half of the season, but a lousy second half, with an ERA approaching 6.00 since August.
Expecting both or either pitcher to find some magic tonight against good and HOT lineups is asking a lot. I like this game to feature some runs and might wind up being the highest scoring game in the series, given that we will start seeing Cain, Lincecum, Carpenter and Lohse after tonight.
Free Pick: Run TOTAL OVER 7