The National League Championship Series begins tomorrow night with the St. Louis Cardinals continuting to defend their World Series title by going out West to face the 2010 Champion San Francisco Giants. Very rarely, if ever do we have the two most recent champions face each other the following season for the right to earn a return trip to the Fall Classic. Throw in the Yankees who won it all in 2009 and we have the last three MLB Champions fighting for a title in 2012. This NLCS promises to be a classic, two gritty clubs who were simply amazing in both of their prior series. You have St. Louis, down 6-1 in the fifth inning in Washington in the fifth and deciding game coming all the way back to win 9-7. That should be the most extraordinary story of this postseason….except that would belong to the Giants. San Fran dropped the first two games at home to the Reds only to go on the road to win the final three games of the series.
I have two guys in mind who I expect to have big series. For the Giants, it is Angel Pagan, the former Met who was traded to San Francisco last December. All Pagan did was lead the National League in triples with 15. When Melky Cabrera, the best Giants player in the first half, was suspended 50 games for a PED violation, Pagan upped his game by hitting a sizzling .342 in August. Although he batted a paltry .150 in the NLDS, Pagan got the team going in Game 4 with a leadoff home run. Expect a big bounce back in this series. On the Cardinals’ side, Allen Craig will look to shine just as he did in the 2011 postseason. In this, first full season as a regular player, Craig was forced to make up for Albert Pujols’s departure and Lance Berkman’s injury. He enjoyed a fine year as he hit 22 home runs and drove in 92 runs to go along with a .307 batting average. Most of us will recall his two huge pinch hits during the first two games of last year’s World Series. In that same Series, he homered in both Game 6 and Game 7 as the Cards took their second title in six seasons. There is no reason for Craig to slow down now.
As good as the ALCS will be, I think Cards-Giants will be even better. These are two historic franchises and the backdrop of a matchup between the previous two champions has this NLCS shaping up to be an epic battle. The verdict? Is it possible every game will be decided by run? Doubtful but I think the Cardinal magic, after making an appearance or two will finally run out in 2012. Giants in a seven game classic for the ages.
Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com