(Sports Network) - It's not often that the last two World Series winners meet
up in the postseason, but that will be the case in this year's National League
Championship Series, as the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals and 2010
winner, the San Francisco Giants, square off in the best-of-seven set starting
Sunday at AT&T Park.
The previous two World Series winners haven't met in the postseason since the
New York Yankees and Milwaukee Braves dueled in the 1958 Fall Classic.
San Francisco has played the Cardinals twice before in the playoffs. St. Louis
edged the Giants in a thrilling seven-game series in 1987, but San Francisco
got its revenge in 2002 with a five-game win in the LCS.
These teams split six regular season meetings this year, but both enter riding
an incredible wave of momentum. The Giants, of course, became the first NL
team to rally from an 0-2 series deficit and win an NLDS, while the Cardinals
came back from falling behind 6-0 in their decisive fifth game with the
San Francisco is in the NLCS for the second time in three years and the
Cardinals are making their seventh appearance since 2000.
As an introduction to this NLCS matchup, let's take a look at the keys to
winning the series for both clubs:
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
1. CARLOS BELTRAN
Carlos Beltran was brought into replace Albert Pujols and actually put up
about the same numbers, as he hit .269 with 32 home runs and 97 RBI.
As good of a player as Beltran is in the regular season, he is quite simply
one of the best postseason hitters in this generation and that was certainly
the case in the series with the Nationals, as he hit .409.
Beltran, who owns an all-time best .817 career postseason slugging percentage
also joined Babe Ruth as the only players to reach base five times in an
2. CHRIS CARPENTER
St. Louis may have the biggest weapon in this series in righty Chris
The former Cy Young Award winner missed most of the season with a shoulder
injury, but returned late in the season and to make three starts. But, like
Beltran has been one of the better postseason players in recent memory.
He shut out the Nationals over 5 2/3 innings in his lone NLDS start and is
10-2 lifetime in the playoffs with a 2.88 ERA in 16 starts.
It seems like we've been here before with this St. Louis Cardinals team.
Last year they overcame a 9 1/2-game deficit and secured a playoff spot on the
final day of the regular season, only to parlay that into their 11th World
And just like last year, in the Nationals, the Cardinals have taken out the
team with the most wins in the regular season. Last year, St. Louis topped
Philadelphia in a do-or-die Game 5 on the road in the NLDS.
Although, they didn't have to overcome a six-run deficit last season like they
did on Friday to win.
It doesn't matter what anyone else may think of this Cardinals team, the 25
men on the roster believe they can win it all again. You want to bet against
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
1. TIM LINCECUM
Nobody was more important to the Giants in their five-game win over Cincinnati
than two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, who was remarkable in two
After an awful season that saw him go 10-15 with a 5.18 ERA, Lincecum was
demoted to the pen, but the Freak answered the call, going 1-0, while allowing
just one run in with eight strikeouts in 6 1/3 frames.
Now Lincecum could wiggle his way into a start in this series, as Barry Zito
struggled in his outing. Madison Bumgarner will go for the Giants in Game 1,
followed by Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain the third game.
Although manager Bruce Bochy hasn't decided on a Game 4 starter, you can bet
your last dollar that he goes with Lincecum.
2. BUSTER POSEY
The Giants don't offer much in the offensive department, but they do have one
player that pitchers worry about in MVP candidate Buster Posey.
Posey didn't do much in the first four games against the Reds, but his grand
slam in Game 5 set the tone in the win. And let's not forget, despite his .211
NLDS average, this is a player who was the NL's leading hitter at .336 with 24
home runs and 103 RBI during the regular season.
San Francisco, though, will need more from him in this round if they are going
3. LOOK INTO EACH OTHER'S EYES
Hunter Pence was acquired near the trade deadline to help the Giants' woeful
offense, but hit just .219 in 59 games.
However, he has become the team's inspirational leader and manager Bruce Bochy
has credited him as the guy who got the team fired up when they were in an 0-2
hole against the Reds prior to Game 3.
Pence's fiery football like scrums are now a part of the pregame ritual and
his "look into each other's eyes" has become a rallying cry for the team.
The Sports Network