NLCS Game 2 preview: Giants taking on Cardinals in St. Louis

The Giants are a win away from taking a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Cardinals in the NLCS.
Publish date:

Giants at Cardinals

Start Time: 8 p.m. ET

TV: Fox Sports 1

Starting Pitchers: Jake Peavy (7-13, 3.73 ERA) vs. Lance Lynn (15-10, 2.74 ERA)

Status: Giants lead 1-0. On Saturday night, the Giants took advantage of a less-than-100-percent Adam Wainwright, wearing him down via high pitch counts in the early innings as they built a 3-0 lead and then coasting behind Madison Bumgarner, who was once again dominant. In doing so, the Giants neutralized the Cardinals' home-field advantage.

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Repeating Cliff Corcoran's findings from  his ALCS Game 1 preview, in 161 previous best-of-seven postseason series (LCS 1985-2013, World Series 1905-1918 and 1922-2013), the Game 1 winner went on to win the series 104 times (.646 winning percentage). The road team won just 68 of those 161 Game 1's (.422), but when they did, they went on to win 42 of those series.

Matchups: For the Giants, the 33-year-old Peavy has been a new man since his early-season struggles in Boston (4.72 ERA, 4.80 FIP, 1.5 HR/9 in 20 starts). After being acquired via trade on July 26, he delivered a 2.17 ERA and 3.03 FIP in 12 starts while allowing just 0.3 homers per nine. He spun 5 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 1 of the Division Series against the Nationals, allowing just two hits while striking out three and walking three.

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​While his stuff isn't the same as it was during his time as the Padres' ace -- his average four-seam fastball comes in at 90.9 mph, as opposed to 95 -- Peavy has adjusted his repertoire since the deal. He has gotten better results backing off the use of his sinker in favor of his four-seam fastball and cutter. Via, where he was throwing the four-seamer 33.8 percent of the time with the Red Sox and yielding a .279 batting average and .506 slugging percentage, he upped that to 40.4 percent while dropping to a .211 average and .322 slugging percentage. Where he was throwing the sinker 21. 9 percent of the time in Boston and getting tagged for a 33.9 average and .591 slugging percentage, he's cut back to 6.0 percent with a .316 average and .421 slugging percentage. In all, batters raked him over the coals at a .273/.337/.475 clip with the Red Sox this year, but managed just a .231/.284/.338 line against him with the Giants.

Though Peavy has long had a substantial platoon split, it was less pronounced this year. Lefties hit .249/.318/.448 against him, with 16 homers and a .266 BABIP. Righties hit .265/.317/.402  with seven homers and a .318 BABIP. As a team, the Cardinals hit just .252/.317/.363 against righties this year, with their righties managing just a .239/.302/.346 line against same-siders.JhonnyPeralta (.262/.317 /.434) and Matt Holliday (.263/.347/.404) were the only righties who managed even a .400 slugging percentage in that context, while lefty-swinging Matt Adams feasted (.318/.349/.505). Among the moving parts, righty Randall Grichuk, who will start in right field, hit just .250/.308/.354 in 52 PA against righties, while lefty Kolten Wong, who will start at second base, batted just .234/.285/.371 against them. 

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The full lineup:

L - Matt Carpenter3B

L - Jon Jay CF

R - Matt Holliday LF

L - Matt Adams 1B

R - Jhonny Peralta SS

R - Yadier Molina C

L - Wong 2B

R - Randall Grichuk RF

R - Lance Lynn P

Among current Cardinals, Peavy has a substantial history with Holliday (.300/.475/.400 with a homer and 10 walks in 40 PA) and Peralta (.200/.256/.371 with three doubles and a homer in 35 PA).

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​Peavy's opponent is the 27-year-old Lynn, who this year set career bests in ERA, innings (203 2/3) and Wins Above Replacement (3.7). Despite similar peripherals from last year, he improved thanks in large part due to a 28-point drop in BABIP (.321 to .293). In Game 2 of the Division Series against the Dodgers, Lynn worked six solid innings, allowing two runs on seven hits and a pair of walks while striking out eight.

For the season, Lynn showed a fairly typical platoon split (.234/.293/.342 against righties, .244/.325/.372 against lefties). Thanks to the presence of Brandon Belt, Gregor Blanco, Brandon Crawford, Travis Ishikawa, Joe Panik and switch-hitter Pablo Sandoval, the Giants lineup tilts heavily to the left, though not all of those lefties thrived under such circumstances. The Big Panda hit .317/.363/.461 against righties, while Belt hit a lopsided .233/.299/.473 and Crawford just .213/.291/.346. RightyBuster Posey was only slightly less threatening against righties (.314/.366/.478) than lefties (.304/.357/.518), though for his career he has a much wider split in favor of facing southpaws. RightyHunter Pence showed more power against righties (.274/.323/.456), but got on base with much more proficiency against lefties (.284/.355/.415).

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Here's the full lineup:

L - Gregor Blanco CF

L - Joe Panik 2B

R - Buster Posey C

S - Pablo Sandoval 3B

R - Hunter Pence RF

L - Brandon Belt 1B

L - Brandon Crawford SS

L - Travis Ishikawa LF

R - Jake Peavy

While much is likely to be made of the fact Lynn has a career 0-4 record with a 6.95 ERA against the Giants including two outings in the 2012 NLCS in which he didn't make it out of the fourth inning, he has no more than 13 plate appearances against any of the team's hitters. That said, the small-sample theater reviews aren’t exactly much that can give the Cardinals comfort: Current Giants have hit .355/.403/.500 in 67 PA against him.

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Hot Hands: Giants pitching has simply smothered opponents thus far this postseason, yielding a .154/208/.222 batting line en route to a 1.14 ERA. Their starters have averaged 7.0 innings per turn with a 0.85 ERA and 38/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio without allowing a single homer in 42 1/3 innings. In their two non-quality starts (Peavy's NLDS Game 1 and Ryan Vogelsong's NLDS Game 4), they still combined to allow just one run in 11 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, their relief corps have been shakier with a 1.74 ERA and 18/6 strikeout-to-walk ratio concealing the fact that they've allowed four homers in 20 2/3 innings. Thankfully, they won't have to face Bryce Harper again.  

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Thus far in the postseason Belt (.364/.464/.500 with a homer, five walks and a team-high six RBI) has been the Giants' hottest hitter, though Posey (.357/.400/.357) and Sandoval (.333/.400/.407) have kept the line moving even while managing something less than their usual punch. They've propped up a team that has combined to hit just .235/.299/.291 with just two homers total thus far. For the Cardinals, Matt Carpenter (.350/.381/.950 with three doubles and three homers) and Jon Jay (.538/.647/.538, boosted by three hit-by-pitches) have done by far the most damage. In fact, no other Cardinal has a postseason OPS above .691 through five games. The team as a whole is hitting .218/.274/.391 so far in the postseason.