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2014 NLCS: Previewing the Cardinals rotation

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From Adam to Shelby, a look at the pitchers the Giants will have to face.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Adam Wainwright is not broken. There was talk that he had elbow pain, which was responsible for his dreadful start in Game 1 of the NLDS, but Mike Matheny pooh-poohed that idea on Thursday when he named Wainwright his Game 1 starter. "Perfectly fine" is the exact quote.

The Cardinals' rotation was announced on Thursday, which means it's time to hem and haw about their specific talents, even though there's no way the baseball games are going to go the way we think they are.

Game 1 - Adam Wainwright

Over at Viva El Birdos, there's an article that's titled "Should St. Louis Cardinals fans be worried about Adam Wainwright?" I'd thought the answer would be "yes" and there would be a picture of Travis Ishikawa with a caption of "He might have to face this dude." Instead, it breaks down the possibility that Wainwright is hurt.

But despite Wainwright's awe-shucks declaration that he'd have started Game 5 had it proven necessary and Matheny's abiding optimism that physical troubles due workload are just a part of being an ace, there's reason for concern. The Cardinals' $100-milion arm is less than 100% and he's slated to open the NLCS on Saturday as the St. Louis starter.

I don't trust him. I don't care if I can see the smoke coming out of his forearm as he's writhing in pain and yelling for someone to cut it off, cut it off. He's still Adam Wainwright, perennial Cy Young candidate and excellent pitcher. Someone mentioned to me in passing the other day that the Giants crush Wainwright, nbd. A complete history of Wainwright v. Giants starts:

Excellent
7/2/14 (7⅔ IP, 0 ER, 1 K, 2 BB)
6/1/13 (9 IP, 1 ER, 10 K, 0 BB)
4/7/13 (7 IP, 2 ER, 6 K, 0 BB)
Game 4 (7 IP, 1 ER, 5 K, 1 BB)
8/9/12 (7 IP, 1 ER, 7 K, 3 BB)
4/24/10 (8 IP, 2 ER, 4 K, 1 BB)
7/1/09 (9 IP, 1 ER, 12 K, 3 BB)

Okay
5/17/12 (5⅔ IP, 2 ER, 1 K, 4 BB)
5/31/09 (7 IP, 4 ER, 3 K, 2 BB)
4/10/08 (7 IP, 4 ER, 6 K, 0 BB)

Awful
5/30/14 (4⅓ IP, 7 ER, 4 K, 1 BB)

Ahhh, recency bias, you bewitching minx. Wainwright has had exactly one awful start against the Giants in 11 chances. It came when the Giants were seemingly unbeatable in May, and Madison Bumgarner was outstanding for the Giants in that game, so there are some good signs if you're an optimist. If Wainwright's "perfectly fine", though, the Giants are probably hosed, at least for the first seven or eight innings.

Game 2 - Lance Lynn

Maybe my friend was thinking about Lynn. The Giants have legitimately crushed him over the years, including knocking him out in the fourth inning twice in the 2012 NLCS. He's started against the Giants five times, with the Giants winning four of those games. His best outing against them was a six-inning, four-run affair in August, 2012. It's been all downhill since then.

An aside: Lynn was pulled from Game 1 after issuing a two-out walk to Aubrey Huff. Be honest: Before reading that, did you have a single memory of Huff on the 2012 postseason roster? He made an appearance in each round. I had completely and totally forgotten about that. I would have bet $50 that he wasn't on the team for any of the rounds. That was two years ago. No point. Just had one of those moments where I questioned reality a bit.

What Lynn's five-start history means for this series: Nothing. I mean, it's possible that every Giants hitter just happens to have his number -- like Brandon Crawford -- but I'm not going to assume that's the case based on five starts. Lynn was excellent for the entire year, and there's no reason to assume that's going to change only because he's facing fellers with SF hats.

Game 3 - John Lackey

Voted "Most Likely To Stare At You With His Mouth Open" by the Abilene High class of '96, John Lackey looks like someone whose next spoken word is eternally likely to be "butts." There doesn't need to be context for him saying "butts." You could be asking him for directions and, after several blinking moments, he is still likely to say "butts," slowly and without a trace of humor or irony. It's just looks like that's the word on his mind at all times.

He's also a sneaky Giants postseason villain, having started Game 7 of the 2002 World Series and holding the Giants to a run over five innings. Watching the Giants tally eight earned runs against him would please me so.

Lackey was excellent against the Dodgers in Game 3, so we do owe him a small token of gratitude. Since coming over to the Cardinals, though, he had been a substantial disappointment before the NLDS. He allowed fewer ground balls and more dingers, and his velocity tumbled. It was something of a surprise that Lackey even picked up a postseason start, but Michael Wacha's injury and late return made it a necessity. Plus, Lackey's been there before, and all that. He was simply excellent in that game against the Dodgers, and that's worth another mention.

A.J. Pierzynski isn't likely to be on the active roster, which is a good thing. There's only so much potted meat the FDA allows on any given mound at one time. One mound conference, and everything would collapse upon itself in a meatstorm of meat.

I imagine Lackey and Matt Holliday talking about chewing various foods for hours on plane rides across the country.

I do not like the Cardinals. This team, man ...

Game 4 - Shelby Miller

Last year the Cardinals taped Miller under the bench for the entire postseason in some kind of elaborate hazing ritual. This year, they're counting on him to make huge playoff starts.

I have no idea what to make of Miller. Well, the Giants are literally in the NLCS, so I have no idea what to make of baseball in general. Miller, specifically, confuses the heck out of me, though. He was one of the prospects the Giants were supposedly considering with the Zack Wheeler pick, and he was immediately effective in the minors.

Except when he reached Triple-A, he was awful. Velocity went down, dingers went up. So the Cardinals did the logical thing and put him in the rotation the following year, where he was outstanding. Then when the playoffs started, they let him pitch exactly one inning out of three postseason rounds.

Now he's a rotation fixture, and even though his strikeout rate is down and walk rate is up, he's coming off an excellent second half.

Shelby Miller, everyone. You figure him out.

I'll guess the Giants are going to stick with the same rotation they had in the NLDS -- Bumgarner, Peavy, Hudson, Vogelsong -- if only because it worked the first time, and Petit seems to be comfortable out of the bullpen. That's not official, though.

We know who the Cardinals are starting, though. Those guys. Adjust your expectations accordingly.