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Cardinals at Giants – Free Pick NLCS Game Two

St. Louis Cardinals +105 at San Francisco Giants -111 (Total: 6.5)

Chris Carpenter vs. Ryan Vogelsong

The Cardinals are at it again.  In the early game, the Yankees bats fell silent as they were unable to “win one for the Jeter” all but sealing their fate as they fell down 2-0 at home with Verlander looming, but the Cardinals… those pesky Cardinals… they just did what they do in October.  Win.

Despite having a shortage of pitching that required them to recall Lance Lynn from the pen, and despite facing the red-hot Giant bats in AT&T Park, they clawed out six early runs and rode their well-sed bullpen to a 6-4 victory.   Tonight, they get their returning ace, the 37-year old two-time Cy Young winner, Chris Carpenter taking the ball looking to establish a commanding 2-0 lead.

Will Carpenter be able to step right back in to his traditional postseason dominance?  Will the Giants and Ryan Vogelsong be able to hold down the Cardinal offense and stabilize the series?  Let’s dig into this pitching matchup first to find a winning edge.

Carpenter has made only four start in 2012, and none of them significantly stretched his pitch count.  They are going to need a solid six innings out of him tonight (seven would be great) to get the pen a much-needed breather.  In his four appearances he has been very good, posting a 2.55 ERA, however his team is just 1-3 (he is 1-2) in those four games.  He held the Nats scoreless in the NLDS, but only lasted 5.2 innings and allowed seven hits and two walks.  That translates to a WHIP of near 1.75, which will eventually come back and haunt a pitcher.  I think the Giants will be able to get some offense off of Carpenter tonight and give themselves a chance to win the game.

For the Giants, Ryan Vogelsong had the best ERA in baseball about two weeks before the All-Star break, then he went through a miserable midsummer stretch that saw his ERA balloon all the way up towards 4.00.  He looked fatigued and as if the hitters of the league had caught up in a major way.  Coupled with the struggles of Lincecum and the huge additions made by division rival Los Angeles, there were some pretty tense moments in August for San Francisco.  Then, around Mid-September Vogelsong got right, the Giants got rolling and the put the division on ice and haven’t looked back since.

In his last four starts he has gone just 22 innings, but has allowed only two runs.  That’s an ERA that starts with a ZERO, which is always a good thing when your team faces a must-win (or a “really NEEDS to win” ballgame).  I expect him to also be sharp and to give the Giants hitters a chance to win the game with a reasonable output.  The OVER/UNDER for this game is set at just 6.5, which feels about a half-run low to me.  I like the OVER, but my official play tonight is the Giants getting the win at home and evening this series at a game apiece.

Free Pick:  San Francisco Giants to WIN -111