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NLCS, Game 1 NLCS Game 1 Preview

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS at SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS Line: San Francisco -130 & 7 under -115

The past two World Series champions continue their quest for another title when St. Louis visits San Francisco for Game 1 of the NLCS on Sunday night.

Both teams were able to complete impressive comebacks in the NLDS, as the Cardinals erased a 6-0 deficit in the decisive Game 5 in Washington to win 9-7, while the Giants won three straight road games in Cincinnati to overcome an 0-2 series hole. Sunday's series begins with St. Louis right-hander Lance Lynn facing Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner. Lynn, who will be making his first-ever playoff start, has led his team to six straight victories when he starts. However, Bumgarner has struggled recently, allowing at least four runs in six of his past eight starts (6.15 ERA, 1.71 WHIP), including a loss in Game 2 of the NLDS when he allowed four runs in 4.1 innings. And Sunday could be another rough outing considering how well St. Louis hits left-handed starters, scoring 5.5 runs per game and posting a 32-19 record (.627) in 2012. The Cards are also putting up 6.3 runs per game in the 2012 postseason, far better than the 3.6 runs per game that San Francisco has.

Lynn (17-5, 3.67 ERA, 1.30 WHIP) has been in a relief role so far in the playoffs, allowing three runs on four hits and two walks in just 3.2 innings. Lynn was much more effective during last year's World Series run, going 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA in 11 innings of work out of the bullpen. He replaced the injured Jaime Garcia in Game 2 of the NLDS, earning the victory in a 12-4 blowout win. Lynn has led his team to a 21-8 record when he starts this season, including 12-5 on the road despite a mediocre 3.92 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. Lynn has struggled in his two career appearances versus San Francisco, both starts. In June of 2011, he allowed five runs in 5.1 innings, and this season, he surrendered four runs on eight hits and three walks in six innings on August 7, losing 4-2. He has never pitched in AT&T Park, but he should be able to hold a Giants lineup in check, considering they average 3.7 runs per game at home this year. Lynn has averaged just 5.8 innings per start this season, but will be expected to go at least seven innings with an overused bullpen that has been terrible on the road this season, going 9-18 with a 4.34 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 11 blown saves in 31 chances.

Bumgarner (16-12, 3.47 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) has been tremendous at home this season, going 10-4 with a 2.61 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Although his first playoff start in 2012 didn't go as planned (4.1 IP, 7 H, 4 ER), he pitched very well in the 2010 postseason, going 2-0 with a 2.18 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in four games (3 starts, 1 relief appearance). The southpaw has faced St. Louis four times in his career with pretty good success, going 2-2 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, racking up three quality starts and 20 K's in 27.1 IP. But his least effective outing against the Cards was his lone home tilt, when he allowed four runs in 7.1 innings in a 4-1 loss on May 16. Bumgarner averages 6.4 innings per start and has a strong bullpen to rely on. San Francisco relievers are 25-19 with a 3.54 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 81% save conversion rate overall, and are even more efficient at home, going 11-8 with a 3.23 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.

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