As I write, the American League Championship Series has begun between Baltimore & Kansas City. We're sticking with our prediction that the Orioles will advance to their first World Series in 31 years, and will end Kansas City's Cinderella run in 7.
Therefore, our focus is on the National League Championship Series, a rematch of the 2012 NLCS between St. Louis & San Francisco, which gets underway tomorrow at Busch Stadium III. We know what you're thinking. It's an even numbered year. The last two World Series in even numbered years went to the Giants. This will not happen a 3rd time.
Giants ace Madison Bumgarner caused his own demise on Monday vs. Washington, committing a critical error, spoiling what otherwise was a gem of a game vs. the Nats' Doug Fister. Giants manager Bruce Bochy may or may not go right back to Bumgarner on regular rest for Saturday's opener, but, given that former WWE champ Daniel Bryan was present at Monday's game (the Giants have adopted Bryan's "Yes!" chants), we would not be surprised, given Bumgarner's post-game antics of late, that another former champ might show up in support of San Francisco. Fella by the name of Stone Cold Steve Austin. Considering Bumgarner was seen slamming down four, ah, "Bumweisers" after beating Pittsburgh in the Wild Card play-in round, and I read something about 5 beers, I think, after the NLDS elimination of Washington, I figure, why not have the "Texas Rattlesnake" be in San Francisco for game 3 on Tuesday? Failing that, having Bumgarner walk to the mound to Austin's classic theme would be the next best thing.
St. Louis is thirsting for revenge on the Giants after the 2012 NLCS. Yes, the Cardinals went all the way to the World Series last year before losing to Boston in stunning fashion, but they have the advantage in pitching, not San Francisco.
If there is one weakness to the Cardinals, it's the fact that they have 2 rookies in their starting lineup to just 1 for San Francisco. However, all of the rookies (Joe Panik for the Giants, Kolten Wong & Randal Grichuk for St. Louis) have been key contributors in the Divisional round. For them, it's a coming of age period. That happens from time to time. Wong has overcome early struggles and injuries to justify all the hype that surrounded him in his initial run last year. Panik was impressive when he played against the Mets, who held Wong in check. It's a wash. What will decide the series is the bullpens. The Cardinals have a shutdown closer in 2nd year man Trevor Rosenthal. The Giants' former closer, Sergio Romo, is now a set-up man for Santiago Casilla, not the other way around. Big difference. The Giants, though, have converted starter Tim Lincecum back in the bullpen. That could be an X-factor, though I doubt it.
No, the pattern for the Giants will be broken this time. I like the idea of the Cardinals playing in the Series against a team that once called St. Louis home (the Orioles were once the St. Louis Browns). That storyline writes itself. Therefore, we like the Cardinals, also in 7.
Of course, I could be wrong.