It's safe to say a relevant chunk of America is ready for some change. And after four straight years of the Giants and Cardinals alternating National League pennants, one of the two great franchises will occupy the World Series once again.
Going by the recent pattern, this is the Giants' turn to take a crack at the AL champion; and I think that's what will happen. But I'll search for something a little more substantial.
The Cardinals will lean on Adam Wainwright and his ailing arm in game one of the NLCS. Wainwright has complained of arm trouble after throwing another 227 innings this season and after getting hit very hard in game one of the NLDS - a game that St. Louis ended up coming back in against Clayton Kershaw.
Wainwright's arm has made it uncomfortable to throw his dominant cutter as often, which he will need against San Francisco on Saturday night. In two starts against the Giants this season, Wainwright was very bad and then very good. On May 30, he gave up seven runs in 4.1 innings before coming back a little over a month later to throw 7.2 shutout frames on June 2.
If Wainwright can't be himself over a seven-game series, it doesn't necessarily put the Cardinals (who have too many pitchers to begin with) in an uncomfortable spot, but it does take away their biggest weapon. Uncertainty can only favor San Fran here.
I also like the Giants' "boppers," as I'll call them, over St. Louis'. Matt Adams did hit the biggest home run of the NLDS vs. the Dodgers when he took Clayton Kershaw out of the yard to clinch the series in four. He and Matt Holliday certainly have plenty of pop, but they've also had their struggles this season.
Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval aren't the raw power hitters Adams and Holliday are, but I like them as more consistent offensive threats. Throw in Hunter Pence and San Francisco has a nucleus of three offensive players who are able to get it done in the playoffs. There's something to be said about the situation ability of all three and what they have done in their playoff careers. The Giants offense is built a little better for the brand of baseball both teams play.
Of course, the x-factor could be Matt Carpenter. If Carpenter even comes close to doing what he did in the NLDS, that could tip the offensive advantage in St. Louis' direction. The Giants will try to counter with Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt out of the bullpen, but Carpenter isn't very fazed by left-handers.
The key for San Francisco will be to pitch to contact against Carpenter and avoid trying to strike him out, leading to a mistake pitch. If St. Louis can limit Carpenter, I think they advance (and eventually win) their third World Series in five years.
Prediction: San Francisco over St. Louis four games to three.
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