Madison Bumgarner has a chance to send the San Francisco Giants to their third World Series in five years, but there's at least one reason the St. Louis Cardinals can't be too upset about that opportunity coming at AT&T Park.
The Giants' ace has been more hittable in front of a home crowd this season and in his postseason career, trends that could provide the desperate Cardinals with an opportunity Thursday night to send the NL Championship Series back to St. Louis.
San Francisco took a 3-1 series lead with Wednesday's 6-4 victory, and now turns to Bumgarner (2-1, 0.76 ERA), who is 3-1 with a 0.59 ERA and .152 opponents' batting average in his last four postseason starts.
In five home postseason starts, though, Bumgarner is 1-3 with a 5.06 ERA and .282 OBA, including a Game 3 NLDS loss to Washington. On the road, he's 4-0 with a 0.55 ERA and .174 OBA in five outings with a scoreless innings streak of 26 2-3.
His 2014 regular-season numbers at home (7-6, 4.03) and on the road (11-4, 2.22) mirror that, but Giants manager Bruce Bochy isn't about to be picky with where he gets to hand Bumgarner the ball in a potential pennant-clinching game.
"It's always good to have your ace waiting in the wings," Bochy told MLB's official website.
The left-hander began the NLCS by limiting the Cardinals to four hits in 7 2-3 innings of Saturday's 3-0 road win. His only home playoff start against St. Louis was considerably messier, as he surrendered six runs and eight hits in 3 2-3 innings of a Game 1 loss in the 2012 NLCS.
The same trend held true in the regular season with Bumgarner completing seven scoreless innings in St. Louis in May before allowing four earned runs in five innings of a July loss at AT&T Park.
Jon Jay (8 for 16) and Matt Carpenter (4 for 9) have had success against Bumgarner, while Matt Holliday (3 for 21) and Jhonny Peralta (1 for 13) have struggled.
Adam Wainwright's reputation as a big-game postseason pitcher is headed in the opposite direction of Bumgarner's after he's failed to make it through five innings in his first two starts. Wainwright (0-1, 8.00) took the Game 1 loss against Bumgarner after allowing three runs - two earned - and six hits in 4 2-3 innings. The right-hander has also struggled with elbow discomfort and mechanical issues this postseason.
"Until last year's NLCS, I was undefeated in the postseason, and I just don't want to get a bad rap for not being a good playoff pitcher," Wainwright said. "That's the time I want to shine the most. ... I know I'm capable of doing that."
He does have strong road numbers this season to fall back on. Even with his poor start in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, he's 11-6 with a 2.07 ERA in 19 total road starts. That includes a July win in San Francisco after limiting the Giants to four hits in 7 2-3 scoreless innings.
Pablo Sandoval (8 for 23) has had the most success against Wainwright, while Buster Posey (3 for 17) has struggled.
Both teams are well aware that a 3-1 hole isn't insurmountable. The Giants trailed the Cardinals by that margin in the 2012 NLCS before winning the final three games.
For any chance of reversing those roles, St. Louis might first need to correct its sloppy fielding. After the Cardinals lost Game 3 on an errant throw, first baseman Matt Adams had a pair of fielding miscues Wednesday to key San Francisco's three-run sixth inning.
The Giants haven't homered in six straight postseason games, which is the longest drought in a playoff run since the 1973 Oakland Athletics went eight straight and won the World Series.
It hasn't slowed Sandoval, who is 6 for 16 in the series and has reached base in a franchise-record 22 straight postseason games.
St. Louis continues to waste offense from Kolten Wong, who is 4 for 8 with a home run, triple and two doubles in the last two games. Jay, meanwhile, has reached in all eight postseason contests with a .581 on-base percentage.
Catcher Yadier Molina missed a second straight game with a left oblique injury, though he was available as a defensive replacement. Tony Cruz is in the lineup for Game 5 after A.J. Pierzynski caught the previous two games.