Momentum is truly on the Giants side plus they are playing at home. In fact, 13 of the 14 teams to force a Game 7 has won that game. However, as we know, the Cards have been pushed to the brink themselves and have come up big before, first winning their playoff play-in game against Atlanta in Atlanta, then wins the NLDS even though they were behind 6-0, coming up with the improbable win against the Nationals. So here we are with two teams that has both beaten the immense odds over and over again, but in this game, one will continue to claim divine providence, while the other will be left wondering how it could have gone so wrong at the last moment.
Game 7: Lohse vs. Cain
Kyle Lohse: Lohse has a 1.96 ERA in three postseason starts this year, the latest a Game 3 win over the Giants and fellow Game 7 starter Matt Cain. Lohse tossed 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball in that outing, but struggled with his command as he walked five.
Matt Cain: Cain lost Game 3, allowing three runs -- two on a Matt Carpenter homer -- in 6 2/3 innings. He hasn't been as impressive this postseason as he was in 2010, when he didn't allow an earned run, but he is the ace the Giants want on the mound in Game 7.Here is what I wrote for Game 3:
Cain has not been pitching up to his high standards during the playoffs, but he has been OK in his starts so far, with two 3 PQS starts, and he was one out away from a 5 PQS in his last game. He has been hit hard in the new Busch Stadium, 8.27 ERA in 3 starts, 16.1 IP, giving up 22 hits and 8 walks, striking out 14 and giving up 3 homers. That was a bad start in 2008 and 2012, sandwiched around a good start in 2009. And he was really unlucky in his last start, it was a 3 PQS and one out away from a DOM start, yet he gave up a lot of runs.
Cain has been a different, much better, pitcher in recent years so I thought I would run over his St. Louis experience over the past 3 seasons. He had 4 starts, 23.2 IP but gave up 27 hits, obviously BABIPed there, plus he gave up 4 HR, 1.5 HR/9 so that is also above his normal career numbers. More key is that he had 20 K's, for a 7.6 K/9 and only had 6 walks, for a great 3.33 K/BB ratio. So he has actually pitched very well, but BABIP was high as well as HR hit, and both contributed to his high ERA of 4.94 over the three years. If BABIP and HR rate regresses to his career mean, he should dominate the Cards with his 3.33 K/BB ratio and 7.6 K/9.
Many hitters have not done well. Holliday has the most AB, due to his years with Colorado, and he only hit .200/.277/.450/.727, but 3 HR in 40 AB. Beltran, of course, has hit him well, .389/.450/.778/1.228 in 18 AB. Molina has done OK, .286/.363/.357/.710 in 17 PA. John Jay went 4 for 6 and Matt Carpenter went 4 for 4. Schumaker has a .432 OPS, Descalso .250 OPS, Freese .143 OPS, Craig .000 OPS.
Lohse has a 3.40 ERA in Busch Stadium overall, 3.42 ERA against the Giants in AT&T, and no starts in St. Louis against the Giants. Both RHB and LHB hit him well, though he is much better against RHB: .272/.317/.425/.742 and 2.66 K/BB against RHB, .282/.342/.450/.792 and 1.84 against LHB. However, this season, he has been stellar at home, 2.33 ERA in 16 starts, 108.0 IP, giving up 91 hits and 24 BB, striking out 74 (6.2 K/9 and 3.08 K/BB).Of course, despite Cain outpitching him via peripherals, with a DOM start (4 PQS) while Lohse had a disaster start, yet Lohse outpitched Cain where it counted by not allowing as many runs, despite giving up all those hits and walks, putting the Giants down 1-2 in the series at that point. Now Cain hopes to return the favor and win this start.
There are some players who have faced him a lot. Pence has a lot, and did OK, hitting .298/.327/.383/.710 but no homer in 47 AB. Huff has been horrible, but Theriot has been great, so he's probably going to get the start because of that plus to give Scutaro a rest, .545/.545/.818/1.364 in 22 AB. Meanwhile, Scutaro has a .400 OPS in 15 AB. Pagan .500/.429/.667/1.095 in 7 PA and Blanco 1 for 2 and Sandoval 1 for 3.
Lohse actually outperformed Cain in terms of PQS, he had a 70% DOM vs. 63% DOM for Cain (both had 0% DIS). But obviously, his ERA was much worse than Cain. That's partly because he only had a 6.1 K/9 but because he don't walk many, his K/BB is stellar at 3.76, while Cain had the much higher 7.9 K/9 similar 3.78 K/BB because his walk rate was a little higher. Plus, of course, Cain has a career BABIP of .268, which is much better than the .300 mean that most ordinary pitchers, like Lohse, regress to. Lohse has a career .301 BABIP, FYI.
Lohse did not pitch that well in the Wild Card Play-In game, 2 PQS, but had a 5 PQS start in game 4 of the NLDS, the only DOM start the Cards got in their playoffs series, which matched what the Giants got, though I would note that Cain was one out away from a DOM (5 PQS) start in game 5 (he had a 3 PQS instead).
Wow, Vogelsong delivers another DOM start, this time, perhaps inspired by Zito's DOM start in Game 5, he had a 5 PQS start, easily. He delivered another amazing start for the Giants, coming through again for the team, when we really needed him to deliver for us. He kept his game face on and calmly and methodically shut down the Cards, running a no-hitter into the 5th inning, 4.2 IP of no-hit superbness. He struck out 6 of the first 9 hitters, and set a career high in strikeouts in a start with 9. He also joined Cain as the only pitcher for the Giants in the last 100 years to give up only 1 ER in three post-season starts. EPIC. The Giants won its fifth straight elimination game win. Now it is Cainer's turn to continue the streak and throw another 5 PQS DOM start.
Meanwhile, Carpenter appears to have hit the wall, whether due to stamina or dead arm or whatever, in any case, he was up to the task, he was not up to his stellar post-season history of performance, and the Giants scored early and often, though not enough to knock him out of the game, as he was able to pitch another couple of innings, helping out their bullpen. Still, he only lasted 4 innings so there was some burn in their bullpen.
Now it is for the whole enchilada, which happens to be Vogelsong's pre-start ritual, eating a chicken enchilada the day before his start. Cainer vs. Lohse. Cain most probably will throw a better game than Lohse, but as Lohse has been doing it the past few years for the Cards, he has been just doing enough to throw DOM starts at the other team and keep his ERA low but not that low, despite not being much of a strikeout pitcher. But those types of pitchers, while usually likely to throw a good game, will suffer at the hands of the baseball gods sometimes as they get BABIPed to death.
It should be a great game, perhaps with the lead going back and forth. I would normally give Cain and the Giants the lean for home park advantage, but this is no ordinary game, this is a game for all the marbles, for the right to play for the National League in the World Series, and both teams have shown a lot of resiliency to last as deeply into the playoffs as they have.
I would not be surprised though if either team does bust out for a lot of runs, but I would expect the Giants to do that, not the Cards, even though they have the more powerful lineup, because, as I've been writing about on my blog, it is the pitching that controls the pace of the game and Cain has been the better pitcher than Lohse, as good as Lohse has been the past few years with the Cards, Cain has been better. But it is not like Cain has not had bad games in the past either. And Lohse did show up Cain in their last matchup.
But in general, Cain has been the better pitcher than Lohse, and that is what I expect in this game. It is like I wrote the other day, if Zito can deliver for us in game 5, I like our chances of winning the series, even with the need to win two, because we would have Vogelsong and Cain pitching for us. That normally delivers a win, but as we saw in game 3, it is not a given. Still, the team has played great, and I'm very proud of what they have accomplished, no matter what happens in this game. And as my research showed, the team with the better, more dominant pitching normally wins. Not always win, but normally wins. And the Giants have had the better pitching.
However, in 2011, the Phillies totally outpitched the Cards in PQS but lost the series to them. Totally. So you never know. Also, as much as history was against the Giants before, history is actually now against the Cards in this game, with 13 of 14 teams forced to a game 7 by the other team losing, so they are the ones with the underdog mantle in game 7. I don't know what the odds are for the Cards overcoming a six run deficit in their Nats series, but I imagine it could not be any worse than 1 of 14 odds facing them historically regarding being forced into a 7th game. Also, Lohse has actually had a pretty bad history in the playoffs until this season, when he has been mostly good. History of all kinds is colliding here in this game, and I have to wonder if a victory here will propel that team to win the World Series, even though Verlander and the Tigers appear to be invincible.
Can't say it enough time, it should be a great game.
Get into the World Series!
Live to spend another day with your beloved teammates, live to get Scutaro into his first World Series, complete your impossible dream of coming back down 2-0 and 3-1 in each series.