(BaseballSTL) -- Go ahead and make your plans to celebrate the tonight. The Giants are done. The Cardinals are headed back to the World Series,without having to make a return trip to San Francisco this weekend.
I know, I know. The Giants fell behind the Reds two games to none in the NLDS, and had to go to Cincinnati to win three in a row and take that series. That kind of thing won’t happen again. The Giants appear to have run out of gas. The Cardinals are pitching around Puster Posey and San Francisco doesn’t have anybody else capable of stepping up and carrying the team. They’re also about out of starting pitching. Tim Lincecum didn’t have much last night. Barry Zito doesn’t scare many hitters either, even though the Giants have won his last seven regular-season decisions and his last five regular-season starts. The Giants gave him outrageous run support in those 12 games, scoring about seven runs per game. In Zito’s lone post-season start against the Reds he lasted only 2 2/3rds innings. If the Cardinals can avoid chasing those slow curve balls in the dirt, they should have no trouble scoring plenty of runs tonight against him.
With that said, Lance Lynn hasn’t exactly been Bob Gibson in his last few appearances. He gave up four runs in less than four innings of work in game one of the NLCS in San Francisco. Lynn struggled to throw his curve ball for a strike in that game, and the Giants were able to sit on his fastball in their four run, 4th inning rally. If Lynn struggles at all tonight, Mike Matheny will have a quick hook. The entire Cardinals bullpen is rested after last night’s dominating performance by Adam Wainwright. Only Fernando Salas was used out of the pen, and he’s not likely to have his name called in a high leverage situation anyway. If Lynn can just give the Cardinals three or four good innings the relievers can take it from there. Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte are all armed and ready, locked and loaded, and rested. The Giants might not see a fastball slower than 95 miles an hour over the last five innings.
Having won so many games in come from behind fashion themselves the Cardinals would be the last club to take another team for granted and think they’ve got things wrapped up before it’s official. But I’m guessing the Cardinals will come out the gate quickly again tonight in front of 47,000 red-clad, towel waving Cardinals fanatics. Zito will be chased from the mound in less than four innings, the Cards will win their fourth National League pennant in the last nine years, and move on to defend their World Series title against the Detroit Tigers.