Madison Bumgarner will start Game 1 of the NLCS for the San Francisco Giants.
For a good portion of each respective NLDS, it looked as if it would be Washington and Cincinnati, the teams with the best regular-season records in the league, squaring of in the NLCS. It didn’t seem likely that we would be watching a San Francisco-St. Louis series instead.
But, that’s exactly what we’ve got as the NLCS begins Sunday night in San Francisco. First pitch is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. (ET), with big FOX providing the TV coverage of a matchup between the last two World Series winners.
Fitting, perhaps, that they get together after all.
As of early Saturday, only half of the Game 1 pitching matchups had been announced, but it would appear as if Lance Lynn has a good shot to get the call for the Cardinals, especially with Jaime Garcia sidelined by rotator cuff inflammation that will likely require surgery. The Giants will go with Madison Bumgarner, whose turn is next in the rotation after Matt Cain started the decisive fifth game in the Cincinnati NLDS. Ryan Vogelsong will get the call for Game 2.
Of course, the buzz has yet to abate from either of the NLDS these teams were involved in over the past week, both concluding in dramatic fashion. For the Giants, it was rallying from a 2-0 deficit against the Reds by winning the last three games in Cincinnati. For the Cardinals, it was a dramatic rally from an early 6-0 deficit in Game 5 against the Nationals, and scratching for four runs in the ninth inning, all with two outs and even down to the last strike, to eliminate Washington in shocking fashion.
These two have faced off in the NLCS before as well, first in 1987, when the Cardinals survived a Jeffrey Leonard power display to beat the Giants in a riveting seven-game series, before San Francisco got its revenge in five games in 2002, sending Barry Bonds to his only World Series that would ultimately end in disappointment against the upstart Angels.
For the Giants and manager Bruce Bochy, it will be worth watching to see if the lanky lefty Bumgarner has shaken the effects of a poor NLDS effort in Game 2 vs. the Reds when he allowed four runs and seven hits in just 4 1/3 IP of an eventual 9-0 loss. Bumgarner’s last few regular-season starts were also shaky, as he has now allowed four or more runs in six of his last eight outings, with the Giants winning only three of those games.
Bumgarner lost a pair of decisions vs. the Redbirds this season, allowing seven runs and 10 hits over 13 IP covering the two starts, striking out 10 and walking only one in the process. In his career, Bumgarner is 2-2 vs. St. Louis, with a 3.68 ERA and a fairly-solid 1.06 WHIP.
Despite the loss last Sunday vs. the Reds, Bumgarner has been effective this season at AT&T Park, posting a 10-3 record and 2.38 ERA. One of those few home losses, however, was inflicted by the Cardinals.
As the series progresses, we’ll see what Bochy does with his rotation, and if he decides to give Tim Linceucm, who was effective out of the bullpen in the NLDS, a starter’s role, perhaps at the expense of Barry Zito, who wasn’t sharp in Game 4. San Francisco, however, has won 12 straight games started by Zito, so Bochy might not want to tamper with a winning formula, either.
Cards manager Mike Matheny might have no choice other than to start Lynn, who was used out of the bullpen in the Washington series. Vet Chris Carpenter, now 10-3 in his career during the postseason after a solid effort in last Wednesday’s 8-0 win over the Nats, likely gets the call for Game 2.
If it’s Lynn on the mound, the Cards will merely be turning to an 18-game winner, although the Ole Miss alum was pulled from the rotation late in the summer after a series of shaky outings. Lynn returned to the rotation in mid-September and produced solid if not spectacular efforts in his last four starts, posting a 2.19 ERA in the process while posting wins in all of the outings.
Lynn faced the Giants only once this season, although that was when he was slumping in early August, allowing four runs and eight hits over six innings of an eventual 4-2 loss at Busch Stadium.
The teams also split their six regular-season meetings, including a 2-game set at AT&T Park and a 4-game set at Busch.