Cards out to avenge '12 NLCS loss

St. Louis held 3-1 lead before losing three straight; clubs quite familiar with each other

Cards out to avenge '12 NLCS loss

ST. LOUIS -- While the American League's World Series representative is set to be one who hasn't played on the grandest of baseball's stages since the 1980s, the National League will be sending a familiar foe back for the third time in five years.

Whether it's the Giants or the Cardinals who prevail in the best-of-seven NL Championship Series, which starts at Busch Stadium on Saturday (7 p.m. CT, FOX), it will be that franchise's chance to capture a third World Series title since 2000. No other NL team outside of this pair even has two.

So, yes, this is a matchup that reeks of familiarity, one that will give the Cardinals a do-over for their frustrating finish to the 2012 season. A win away from advancing to the World Series, the Cardinals lost three straight games (and were outscored by the Giants, 20-1) to finish that quest one victory short.

  Date Recaps Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 11 SF 3, STL 0 video
Gm 2 Oct. 12 STL 5, SF 4 video
Gm 3 Oct. 14 SF 5, STL 4 video
Gm 4 Oct. 15 SF 6, STL 4 video
Gm 5 Oct. 16 SF 6, STL 3 video

This will be the fourth postseason meeting between these two franchises, all of them coming in the NLCS. The Cardinals dispatched of the Giants in 1987, while the Giants ended the Cardinals' season in '02 and '12. Two of those three previous matchups went to a decisive seventh game.

In the seven head-to-head games during the 2014 season, the Cardinals were outscored, 30-20, by the Giants, who won four of the games. St. Louis' starters posted a 4.78 ERA, though the bullpen (2.22 ERA) was strong.

The Cardinals, NLCS participants for a fourth straight season, will send Adam Wainwright to the mound in Game 1. He had one of his worst (4 1/3 innings, eight hits, seven earned runs May 30) and one of his best (7 2/3 innings, four hits, no earned runs July 2) starts of the season against San Francisco. The loss came at Busch Stadium, where he'll be on the mound to open the NLCS.

"We expect to keep going," Wainwright said. "We had to beat a very tough Dodger team, and to move on to the World Series, we have to beat a very tough team. We'll be excited for this challenge."

Wainwright's loss to the Giants in May occurred during the Cardinals' worst spell of the season. They lost three of four to the Giants at home, that coming during a 12-game stretch in which the Cardinals won just three times to fall back to .500 and five games back of the division lead.

The Cardinals went on to take a series at AT&T Park to open July, with Wainwright and Carlos Martinez notching victories. Winning in San Francisco, however, hasn't come so easily in the postseason. In 10 postseason road games against the Giants, the Cardinals are 3-7. They lost three of four there in the '12 NLCS.

Fortunately for the Cardinals, they will own home-field advantage. They also carry the flexibility to align their rotation any number of ways. Wainwright, as long as he's healthy, will get the ball first. Behind him, Lance Lynn, John Lackey and Shelby Miller will all be rested enough to fill in in any order.

The Cardinals, long anchored by that rotation, are seeking their 20th NL pennant to further assert themselves as baseball's preeminent postseason power since the turn of the century.

"I knew at the beginning of the season that what we had could get us to the playoffs," shortstop Jhonny Peralta said. "Now, we have two more steps to go. We're ready for the ring this year."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.