Preserving bullpen a key for Cards in Game 2

Preserving bullpen a key for Cards in Game 2

ST. LOUIS -- A 3-0 loss in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday night dropped the Cardinals into an early deficit in the best-of-seven series. But the Cardinals, who haven't lost consecutive games at home since August and are sending its most consistent starter to the mound Sunday, remain hopeful of heading to San Francisco with a split.

In order to do so, here are three keys to Game 2:

1. Another quality start
Game 2 starter Lance Lynn has been the king of the quality start, throwing 17 of them in his last 18 starts, dating back to June. For a Cardinals team that has had trouble scoring early all postseason, having Lynn hold serve with any zeros Giants starter Jake Peavy might post will be crucial.

Lynn may lead the franchise in postseason appearances (22) already, but he is still looking for a defining moment as a starter. This could be it, and may provide a bit of redemption for his inability to pitch the Cardinals past the Giants when he took the mound in Game 5 of the 2012 NLCS. If there's any concern about Lynn, it would be that the Giants chased him for seven runs (four earned) on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings on June 1.

2. Don't rely on another comeback
The Cardinals had a flair for the dramatic in the NL Division Series, and it was good enough to help them advance past the Dodgers. They scored 15 of their 18 runs from the seventh inning on, and they used the long ball to provide much of that support.

But the Giants have a superior bullpen to the Dodgers, which means the Cardinals can't settle for scoring late. They went 77-5 during the regular season when leading after seven innings and they trust that the back end of their bullpen can continue to get the job done if given some offensive help. Getting that offense clicking will require an awakening of the team's Nos. 1-5 hitters, who went a combined 1-for-19 in Game 1.

3. Don't allow it to turn into a battle of the bullpens
While the Cardinals would normally welcome stacking their bullpen against any other team's, Adam Wainwright's abbreviated start Saturday put some wear-and-tear on the relief corps. Both Marco Gonzales and Seth Maness were called on to pitch multiple innings, which could limit their availability in Game 2. Carlos Martinez and Randy Choate were also used, but in much shorter stints.

In contrast, the Giants bullpen was called upon to get only four outs and they did so rather easily. Sergio Romo threw only two pitches, while closer Santiago Casilla covered the ninth on 12.

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.