Game 1 of the 2012 NLCS begins Sunday night in San Francisco. Here’s a look ahead at the starters and key matchups.


Starters: Lance Lynn (StL) vs. Madison Bumgarner (SF)   

Twenty-three-year-old left-hander Madison Bumgarner will go for San Francisco. Bumgarner finished the regular season 16-11 with a 3.37 ERA. His 8.25 K/9 is second best among Giants starters (Lincecum is No. 1). 

Bumgarner was responsible for the most lopsided game of the Division Series with Cincinnati. The Reds won 9-0. He earned the loss after allowing seven hits and a walk through four-and-one-third innings. 

Still, it would be overreacting to have major concerns about Bumgarner. He has good postseason experience, especially for someone his age. He went 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA through the Giants’ 2010 World-Series-winning playoff run. 

The great thing about the MLB Playoffs is that, before we can get over the shell shock from an earlier series, it’s on to the next one. St. Louis will need to forget last night’s excitement immediately. 

They will probably go with a pitching committee on Sunday. 

Lance Lynn started 29 games for the Cardinals during the regular season, but made it to the seventh inning just six times. He will be their man Sunday night. 

Lynn is 1-1 thus far in the 2012 postseason, despite not making a start. He also went start-less in the 2011 playoffs, although he did make 10 appearances. His most memorable moment thus far has been allowing Jayson Werth’s walk-off homer in Game 4 of the NLDS.

Lynn is actually even more of a strikeout pitcher than Bumgarner is. He averaged 9.20 K/9 in the regular season. Lynn also led the NL in the less-than-favorable sabermetric statistic, cheap wins.


Key Matchups

1. San Francisco Base Runners vs. Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina was by far the best defensive catcher through the 2012 season. His defensive WAR of 2.6 is a full win more than the second-best catcher.

Molina caught runners stealing on 48 percent of their attempts. Only Cincinnati’s Ryan Hanigan was better. It comes as no surprise, then, that San Fran stole just one base (and attempted just two) in their series with the Reds.

Will the Giants play conservatively once again? They didn’t in the regular season. The Giants finished 10th in the MLB with 118 steals.


2. Carlos Beltran vs. The World

Miguel Cabrera may have won the AL Triple Crown, but Beltran is competing for the postseason one. He leads everyone who made it to the DS in batting average (.409), is second in home runs (two) and has four RBI (tied for seventh).

Beltran’s career postseason OPS is now a staggering 1.306. Do you know how many players in the history of baseball have a higher one? ZERO!

San Francisco would be wise to ensure a difficult matchup for Beltran in each of his at-bats beyond the sixth inning. If that means ending somebody’s night on the mound a few batters too early, so be it.

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