SAN FRANCISCO -- The Giants will confront a familiar foe in the National League Championship Series when they meet the St. Louis Cardinals in the best-of-seven affair beginning Saturday at Busch Stadium.
The Giants lost the NLCS to the Cardinals in seven games in 1987. Much more recently, San Francisco topped St. Louis in the NLCS in 2002 and '12. On the latter occasion, the Giants proceeded to a World Series triumph after trailing the Cards, 3-1.
The Giants were too busy celebrating their NL Division Series triumph over Washington to dwell much on the Cardinals. However, first baseman Brandon Belt said, "They remind me a lot of us. They've had a lot of success in the postseason."
In fact, the teams combined to win the past four NL pennants. The Cards won the World Series in 2011, in between the Giants' pair of titles in 2010 and '12. St. Louis defeated Los Angeles in the NLCS last year before dropping the World Series to Boston.
The Giants conceivably could use ace left-hander Madison Bumgarner in Saturday's series opener. Bumgarner would have four days' rest, his usual amount. If Bumgarner were to head the NLCS rotation, Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson likely would follow, with either Yusmeiro Petit or Ryan Vogelsong pitching Game 4. Bumgarner then would be rested enough to return in Game 5, if necessary.
San Francisco won the season series, 4-3, but that overall number is somewhat deceiving. The Giants won three of four at St. Louis from May 29-June 1, when they were in the middle of their 32-11 surge that lifted them to a 43-21 record, best in the Major Leagues at the time. Bumgarner beat Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright in the second game of that series, 9-4. Wainwright plainly lacked his usual effectiveness that night, surrendering seven runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings.
St. Louis captured two of three games from the Giants in a July 1-3 series at San Francisco. Wainwright got his revenge in the middle game of that series, blanking the Giants on four hits through 7 2/3 innings. San Francisco's lone victory in that series was provided in the opener by Tim Lincecum, who worked eight shutout innings.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.