8:07 PM EST, FOX – Line: San Francisco -153
With four games of the National League Championship Series in the books, the end could very well be upon us as the San Francisco Giants look to eliminate the St. Louis Cardinals game five, bear by advancing to their third World Series since 2010. After splitting the first two games at Busch Stadium, the Giants (88-74) have remainsd one step ahead of their opponent since returning to AT&T Park; Bruce Bochy’s club won Game Three 5-4 in ten innings, scoring the go-ahead run on an errant throw to First Base from Reliever Randy Choate, allowing Brandon Crawford to reach Home Plate. Wednesday’s 6-4 victory served as the likely penultimate chapter in this series, as the hosts rallied from a 4-3 deficit in the Third Inning, to score three runs in the Sixth on the strength of catcher Buster Posey’s heroics. Posey had three RBIs on the night, including a single to Left, driving Gregor Blanco home to extend the lead to 6-4 in the Bottom of the Sixth Inning. Starting Pitcher Ryan Vogelsong (8-13, 4.00 ERA) was battered early, lasting just three innings in which he served up four runs on seven hits, issuing a pair of walks with just one strikeout. However, the Bullpen did their job, holding the defending National League Champions scoreless over the final six innings of play. Bochy left no stone unturned in this pivotal matchup, using half-a-dozen relievers, who cumulatiivly yielded just four hits while striking out seven Cardinals, with Santiago Casillias earning the Save in the Ninth.
So with an opportunity to put this series to rest tonight on their own field, what better pitcher would Bochy send to the mound than the one that kicked things off in Game One. Madison Bungarner (18-10, 2.98 ERA) will face the Cardinals for the second time in the last last six days, looking to build upon a dominant performance in Game One. Last Friday, the young left-hander owned St. Louis, relegating the hosts to just four hits over 7.2 innings in a 3-0 shutout victory, in which he racked up seven strikeouts. In fact, Bumgarner has been on fire throughout this postseason, leaving no doubt that he truley is the ace of this veteran rotation. In three starts in these Playoffs, the 25-year old has posted a scant 0.76 ERA, allowing only a pair of runs, while ringing up a stellar 23 strikeouts. Furthermore, he has put together a 0.59 ERA over his last four postseason starts with opponents only batting a mere .152 against him. With that said, he has been far more lenient at home; at AT&T Park, where he was just 7-6 with a 4.03 ERA during the a Regular Season, opposed to 11-4 with a 2.22 ERA on the road. That trend has continued in the Playoffs where in fave starts at home he is only 1-3 with a 5.06 ERA compared to a 4-0 mark and 0.55 ERA away from home.
Meanwhile, after advancing to their fourth consecutive NLCS, the Cardinals (90-72) are in very real danger of being eliminated in tonight’s Game Six. For a while it looked as if Mike Mathey’s charges would even the series at two games apiece last night, jumping out to an early 4-2 lead in the Top of the Fourth Inning, sending Ryan Vigelsong to a premature exit in the process. Matt Adams drove home Matt Carpenter in the First, while A.J. Pierzynski echoed that feat in the following inning with an RBI single of his own allowing Kolton Wong to score. Later in the Third stanza, Jhonny Peralta grounded into a Double Play that enabled Matt Holliday to score, while the aforementioned Wong tagged a 399-foot home run in the Fourth. The homer was Wong’s seventh extra-base hit this postseason, a record for a Cardinals rookie, and good for fourth-most in Major League History. Unfortunately, after Shelby Miller (10-9, 3.74) departed with a 4-3 lead, the Bullpen could not prevent the Giants’ bats from doing damage. Marco Gonzales would prove to be the scapegoat that night, relinquishing three runs in the Sixth Inning, as Bradon Crawford tied the game after circling the bases on a pair of Fielder’s Choices, only to see his successor Seth Manness serve up a single to Posey that opened the floodgates.
So with the opposition choosing to go with the dominating Bumgarner, Matheny will turn to his own ace in an attempt to stave off elimination and in turn send the series back to Busch Stadium. Adam Wainwright (20-9, 2.38 ERA) will get the nod tonight to do just that lin the hopes that he can regain his form after some disappointing performances this postseason. It’s true, For Wainwright has not not be in good form lately, getting battered in each of his last two starts. In fact, he hasn’t gotten out of the Fifth Inning in either appearance; the right-hander has thus far been tagged for eight runs on seventeen hits over the last nine innings of work. He was particularly poor in Game One last Friday; as his counterpart dominated, Wainwright struggled allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits over 4.2 innings of work. Granted, he’s been plagued by elbow discomfort throughout these Playoffs, leading to some dramatic changes in his mechanics. Matheny had better be prepared to rely on his Bullpen, but over the past two games they have proven to be anything but, yielding the winning run on both occasions, and in the case of last night’s affair blowing a late lead.