Wednesday, May 22, 2013
By JEFF FLETCHER Orange County Register
SAN FRANCISCO - The San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals are about to begin the National League Championship Series, and one of them is going to lose.
It might be hard to believe, considering that these are the teams that have won the last two World Series, and they have both showed cockroach-like durability so far this postseason, but one of them is going to lose. The rules say so.
"I see a knock-down, drag-out series ahead of us," Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny said Saturday.
The teams both took the hard way to get to this duel, which begins with Game 1 at 8 p.m. Sunday at AT&T Park. The Cardinals were losing 6-0 to the Washington Nationals in the winner-take-all Game 5 of their series before mounting a comeback. They still trailed by two runs in the ninth inning before stunning the Nationals.
The Giants, meanwhile, were watching that game from their charter flight, which sat on the tarmac in Cincinnati while they waited to see if they would go to Washington or back home to play the Cardinals.
Madison Bumgarner, who knew he'd be starting Game 1 against someone, was impressed with the Cardinals' comeback, but not that impressed. Not after what his team had done.
"I think we did prove to a lot of people that it's not over until it's over, because pretty much everybody counted us out and we were able to fight back," Bumgarner said.
Only four teams had ever come back from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-five Division Series, and none in the National League. And none of the previous four had to win the last three games on the road, as the Giants did.
"Both clubs at some point had their backs against the wall," Giants Manager Bruce Bochy said. "We had to win three straight and they were down a couple of runs in the ninth. They found a way to get it done. I think it says a lot about the two clubs, the character of the clubs and how hard they fight. It should be a really hard-fought series here."
These are two teams that have won their past four postseason series, with the Cardinals also winning a wild-card game.
Beyond that, the primary similarity between the teams is that they are both led by catchers who are MVP candidates: Buster Posey of the Giants and Yadier Molina of the Cardinals.
"I've always been a fan of Buster Posey," said Matheny, a former Gold Glove-winning catcher. "It didn't take too much foresight to realize that he was going to be special. You could see his makeup and natural leadership skills he has. And obviously he can swing the bat a little bit."
"Yadier Molina has impressed me more than any catcher I've ever witnessed," Matheny said. "He has everything that you would ask for from a catcher defensively. And then there are some things offensively people didn't think he would be able to do, and that was just enough motivation for him to figure out how to do it."