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Cardinals offense will need to start earlier against the Giants

The Cardinals' opening series was full of late-game drama, and the Giants series should provide more of the same. However, if the Cardinals are to advance to the World Series, they would be wise not to wait so late in the game to start hitting.

almost Laird-like
almost Laird-like
Dilip Vishwanat

Against the Dodgers, the Cardinals' offense delivered when the team needed it most, scoring fifteen of its eighteen runs in the series in seventh inning or later. But gone are Pedro Baez, J.P. Howell, and the Dodgers band of unreliable relievers that blew leads and caused Clayton Kershaw to pitch past his point of effectiveness. The Giants enter the NLCS with a deeper rotation, a stronger bullpen and an experienced manager in Bruce Bochy known for getting the most out of his staff. If the Cardinals are to defeat the Giants, they will need to get the offense started earlier.

There are a few reasonable explanations for the Cardinals' slow starts at the plate against the Dodgers. While it's easy to poke fun at Harold Reynolds and his unrelenting discussion of shadows rivaling Jung, the start times for the first and fourth game meant that shadows did play a role. Although Game 1 was in Los Angeles, Game 4 was at Busch Stadium and Cardinals players have complained for years about shadows affecting their ability to see the ball in late afternoon. Of the first five games in the series, the only scheduled day game is the third one, which should not affect play until later in the game with a start time of 1pm PST.

There was also the issue of the starting pitching involved. While Kershaw's reputation and postseason ERA have taken a serious hit over the past week, it is easy to forget that Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball and he carved up the Cardinals for six innings in both games he pitched. Over the first six innings of his two starts against the Cardinals, he struck out 17, walked 2 and gave up just four hits and two runs. Zach Greinke is a fantastic pitcher and capable of shutting down any team. The Cardinals did have Hyun-Jin Ryu on the ropes a few times, but Ryu showed little rust on his offspeed offerings, putting a lot of pressure on the Cardinals hitters.

After Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, the San Francisco rotation appears less imposing than the Dodgers, with Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy, and prior nemesis Ryan Vogelsong. The latter three pitchers racked up a healthy amount of innings, but none of them were above average this season. The trio all put up fWARs under two. That has not stopped them from excelling thus far in the postseason.

The Giants staff as a whole has done a very good job limiting runs in the postseason, giving up just 9 runs in 54 innings. With a rested Adam Wainwright, along with Lance Lynn, John Lackey,  the finally playoff-tested (as a starter) 23-year-old Shelby Miller and a solid bullpen backing them up, the Cardinals pitching and excellent defense are in a position to match zeroes with the Giants starters. The Cardinals pitched with a lead in only 11 of 35 innings against the Dodgers. The offense could do the staff a favor and provide more runs in advance against the Giants.

Despite the Cardinals struggles to score throughout the season, the Cardinals have an impressive collection of hitters. A bit of rest seems to have done Matt Adams some good (like Will Leitch, we are also in favor of Big Mayo). Perhaps a few more days of rest will do Yadier Molina some good as well. Adding those two to the underrated Jhonny Peralta, the always-doubted Jon Jay, "breakout" star Matt Carpenter, and the finally appreciated Matt Holliday, the Cardinals have a deep lineup capable of scoring runs and hitting for power. Kolten Wong brings some pop, Randal Grichuk is a terror against lefties, and maybe we'll see a start from the still-promising Oscar Taveras against one of the Giants not named Bumgarner.

The Dodgers series was full of drama and comebacks, holding on at the end of all three victories. This series should provide much of the same, but given the Giants rotation and the stronger bullpen than their rival Dodgers, the Cardinals will need to attack early to survive for a second straight pennant.

Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual's conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.

-Carl Jung