Clark: Giants, Cardinals make for heavyweight NLCS

Clark: Giants, Cardinals make for heavyweight NLCS

PRAIRIEVILLE, La. -- I'm looking forward to this National League Championship Series. Because it's going to be a heck of a series.

With the Giants and Cardinals, you've got the top two teams for the last four or five years in the NL. It's fitting that they play each other to find out who goes to the World Series. I think this is one of the more evenly-matched series that you'll see in baseball. Both teams are not only quality teams, but also quality organizations. Both teams don't know when to quit. They don't panic. They're very businesslike in their approach. And both teams know that they want to be the last ones standing after the last game of the World Series.

When the Giants made their solid run early, I saw execution. The pitching staff took care of what it needed to, the bullpen stepped up in numerous ways and the offense put runs on the board when it had to. And in the midst of all of that, we played great defense, which is a signature of this organization.

  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

After that, we had a few injuries that took away some of the momentum. But the guys found a way to regroup and still turn things around and get the job done. A perfect example was missing left fielder Michael Morse for the NL Wild Card Game at Pittsburgh and in the Division Series against Washington. Yet Travis Ishikawa stepped in and did an admirable job and then guys found ways to push across enough runs.

In mid-June, second baseman Brandon Hicks was struggling a little bit, so general manager Brian Sabean sent me to New Orleans to see if Joe Panik, Adam Duvall and Andrew Susac were ready. Panik and Duvall had really good series and Susac looked good behind the plate. Panik had at least one hit in every game, ran the bases well and played good solid defense -- nothing really flashy, but like Steady Eddie. Duvall hit two tape-measure home runs. Susac had a little problem with the bat but threw out a couple of runners trying to steal. You could see among the three of them that there was a lot of promise there. I also had seen Matt Duffy previously at Class A Augusta, and at Double-A Richmond this year, he hit .332. It was pretty easy to see he was the best player there.

When the Giants acquired Jake Peavy from the Red Sox in late July, he gave them leadership in the clubhouse. He was a more outgoing-type presence. I'm not saying that the team did not have that, but it's important to have somebody like that. When Peavy stepped on the field, he gave the San Francisco Giants everything he had for that start.

One of the hard parts about baseball is the whole-season grind. If you asked Buster Posey, he'd probably say he would've liked to have produced a better first half. But just like 2012, he had a whale of a second half, which is when you need your big men to step up. And what I said about Buster mirrors Hunter Pence, too.

I told somebody before that this year was one of Bruce Bochy's better managing jobs. One of the things I think has really helped him was his coaching staff. Boch is not afraid to delegate to pitching coach Dave Righetti or third-base coach Tim Flannery or Bam-Bam (hitting coach Hensley Meulens) stuff that he wants done. And then the coaches make sure it gets done. I think it's given the coaching staff more purpose, but it's also lightened Bochy's load a little.

We played St. Louis in the 1987 NLCS, and there was a little bad blood. But it's completely different now. These guys know what's at stake. St. Louis has been there and done that, reaching the NLCS for four years in a row. In the middle of all that, we've won two World Series. Whoever executes better is going to be the victor, because the teams are evenly matched.

Will Clark is a community ambassador for the Giants who also coaches part-time and handles special assignments for general manager Brian Sabean. The former first baseman owns a .303 lifetime batting average and made five consecutive All-Star teams as a Giant from 1988-92. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.