No MLB teams have had as much success as the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants in the last five years, making it only fitting that the two storied franchises will compete for the pennant. On Saturday, the two teams will meet to begin the 2014 National League Championship Series.
The Cardinals and Giants have accounted for three of the last four World Series winners. St. Louis has reached the NLCS in each season since 2011, and San Francisco is looking to become the first team since the New York Yankees of the late 1990s to win three championships in five years.
The two teams had similar roads to the NLCS, entering their best-of-five division series as underdogs and winning in four games. Three of the Cardinals’ games against the Los Angeles Dodgers were decided by just one run, including the team’s two victories over leading Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw. The Giants won all of their games by a single run, including Game 2, which saw them beat the Washington Nationals in 18 innings.
St. Louis manager Mike Matheny has an easy decision to make for his Game 1 starter, despite what happened in the opener of the NLDS. Adam Wainwright will get the call, after allowing six runs in 4.1 innings against the Dodgers. Wainwright was dominant in last year’s playoffs, pitching to a 2.57 ERA in five starts, and he recorded a 2.38 ERA in the 2014 regular season.
For San Francisco, Madison Bumgarner is expected to get the Game 1 start. He was responsible for the Giants’ only loss in the NLDS, after throwing a complete-game shutout against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the wild-card game. It’s possible that manager Bruce Bochy will go with Jake Peavy, who’ll be on extra rest and didn’t allow a run in the team’s opener against the Nationals.
Lance Lynn, John Lackey and Shelby Miller will likely fill out the rest of the Cardinals rotation. Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong will follow Bumgarner and Peavy.
In the regular season, the Giants had a more productive offense than the Cardinals, scoring 46 more runs. That wasn’t the case in the division series, as San Francisco failed to score more than three runs in any game. St. Louis scored just eight total runs in the final three games against L.A., but they managed to put up 10 runs in Game 1.
Matt Carpenter had just eight home runs for the Cardinals in 158 regular-season games, but he’s the postseason leader with three homers and seven RBI. Brandon Belt has been the Giants’ top playoff hitter, registering an .893 OPS and hitting the game-winning home run in the 18th inning of Game 2 against Washington.
The betting odds for the series reflect just how even the two teams have been all season long. Bovada.lv lists the Cardinals as a -130 favorite, while the Giants have been given even odds of winning the pennant.
Both teams have been given 13/5 odds of winning the 2014 World Series. A St. Louis Cardinals vs. Baltimore Orioles World Series has been named the most likely matchup.
Prediction: St. Louis in six