8:07 PM EST, FOX – Line: San Francisco -116
With the National League Championship Series now in San Francisco, the Giants have the opportunity to put their collective boots on the necks of the St. Louis Cardinals, whom they lead 2-1 after three games. Arguably the most experienced team left in this postseason, the Giants (88-74), who backed into the Playoffs as losers of nine of their last fifteen outings to end the Regular Season, have rediscovered the touch that earned them World Series Titles in both 2010 and 2012. After hammering the Pirates in the Wild Card Playoff, Bruce Bochy’s club easily disposed of the No. One Seed Nationals in four games, before meeting the reigning National League Champions in this year’s NLCS. The two teams split Games One and Two at Busch Stadium, but it was the hosts that took the initiative last night in a 5-4 extra-innings victory. San Francisco raced out to an early 4-0 lead, on the strength of a pair of doubles from Hunter Pence and Travis Ishikawa, and a solid performance from veteran pitcher Tim Hudson, who yielded just three runs over the first six innings. However, the visitors tied the game in the seventh, and it would not be until the Tenth before that stalemate would be settled. In the Bottom of the Tenth with runners on the corners, Brandon Crawford came racing home on a Gregor Blanco bunt, when Reliever Randy Choate fielded the ball and ensued towards first with an errant throw, allowing the runner to score and ending the contest.
So, just how important is tonight’s game, you ask? In Major League History, when a series is tied at one game apiece, the winner of Game Three has gone on to win that series 70.9% of the time. With that in mind, heading to the bump tonight to extend the series’ lead will be Ryan Vogelsong (8-13, 4.00 ERA), who ended the previous series with Washington a week ago. Vogelsong, despite a relatively substandard regular season, has flipped the switch during the Playoffs; the right-hander has won each of his first five career postseason starts, posting a minuscule 1.19 ERA in the process. Against the Nationals in Game Four of the NLDS, he yielded just one run in 5.2 innings of labor, with four strikeouts and a pair of walks. That performance marked the fifth straight postseason start in which he had admitted one run or fewer, the longest such streak in Major League History. In fact, the only other pitcher to put together a longer streak at any point in his career was Curt Schilling, who posted six consecutive outings in the Playoffs from 1993 to 2001. The 37-year old has faced the Cardinals on nineteen occasions, nine of them starts, and owns a 2-6 record with a poor 6.17 ERA, allowing seven home runs, while sporting a 1.599 WHIP and dismal 1.82 Strikeout/Walk Ratio. With that said, Vogelsong has fared well against St. Louis this season; on May 29th he relinquished four runs on as many hits over 6.1 innings, with five strikeouts in a 6-5 victory, and on July 2nd relegated them to just a pair of runs on six hits in an 0-2 loss in which he racked up eight strikeouts and just one walk over seven innings.
Meanwhile, after splitting the first two games of this NLCS at home, the Cardinals (90-72) must once again rally from a one-game deficit. Mike Matheny’s Outfit won’t panic, for they have advanced to this point in each of the last three postseasons, possessing as much experience as their counterparts tonight. However, they’d probably prefer to stop playing from behind; St. Louis trailed early in all three meetings of this series, which has really put the bonus on their lineup to make things happen. That was precisely the case last night at AT&T Park, where the reigning National League Champions fell behind 4-0 early off of a pair of doubles in the First Inning, as John Lackey was pummeled before settling down over the following five innings. Gradually, the visitors climbed back into the game, courtesy of a Kolton Wong two-run triple in the Fourth, followed by an RBI single from Jhonny Perlata in the Sixth and a Randal Grichuk homer in the Seveth to tie the game. Then everything went south in the Tenth, as the aforementioned Choate walked the potential winning run to open the inning, then after a pair of outs threw the would-be third out past Wong as The winning run crossed home plate. Tuesday’s contest marked just the sixth time in Major League History that a Playoff Game was decided by a throwing error, the first since 2009.
In an effort to square the series away once more, Matheny will send Shelby Miller (10-9, 3.74 ERA) to the mound tonight, as the young right-hander continues to search for his first postseason victory. The 24-year old was stellar heading into the Playoffs, posting a 1.48 ERA over his final five starts of the Regular Season, yet wasn’t quite up to par in his Game Four start against the Dodgers in the NLDS. Though he earned his fourth no-decision in as many attempts, Miller pitched a quality 5.2 innings, allowing a pair of runs on five hits, striking out four and walking three in the 3-2 series-clinching win. It was the first postseason start of his young career, after featuring briefly in each of the Cardinals’ last two Playoff runs. Over the course of his young career, he has only faced the Giants twice, earning the win in both instances. Miller has put together a brilliant 1.46 ERA in those two starts, yielding two runs on ten hits over 12.1 innings, in which he struck out eleven and walked five, with a 1.216 WHIP. Furthermore, in his only start at AT&T Park, he earned a 6-3 victory on April 6th of 2013, allowing a pair of runs on four hits, with four strikeouts and four walks over 5.1 innings of labor. Miller has yet to encounter San Francisco this season.