ST. LOUIS Whats the most important matchup in Game 3 ofthe NLCS Wednesday night?
Matt Holliday vs. Matt Cain? Buster Posey vs. Kyle Lohse?Marco Scutaro vs. the Wabash Cannon Ball railway?
Nope. Its that giant green blob smack dab in the middle of the North American Doppler radar map. And the timing of its arrival over Busch Stadium could havea major impact on this series.
As of Wednesday morning, forecasts called for the game tobegin on time at 3 p.m. CDT, with heavy rain moving in anywhere from an hour tothree hours after the scheduled first pitch.
If both starters get iced out by a long delay, then Game 3could become a battle of long relief. Thats why Giants manager Bruce Bochyhasnt named Tim Lincecum his starter yet for Game 4; he could be forced to useLincecum in case Cain gets too heated up to bring back, but there remain toomany innings to bridge.
As it stands, the matchup of Cain and the Cardinals KyleLohse match the two best pitchers during the regular season for both clubs.
Cain was 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA that ranked fourth in the NLand a 1.04 WHIP that ranked second. Lohse was 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA (fifth) and1.09 WHIP (fourth).
Both pitchers work quickly and tend to get their teams backin the dugout without delay, and theyll be more motivated than ever to hustlein an effort to beat the rain.
Cain was up and down this postseason against the CincinnatiReds while Lohse has been on more of a roll. He kept the Cardinals alive in thewild card knockout game, pitching them past the Braves who had won 23consecutive starts by Kris Medlen, a modern record, before St. Louis endedAtlantas season.
Hunter Pence has seen plenty of Lohse over his career,owning a .295 average but no home runs in 44 at-bats. In fact, the only Giantwho has a career homer off Lohse is the injured Freddy Sanchez, for what itsworth.
Marco Scutaro is in the lineup at second base, but if heneeds to exit because of his sore hip and knee, Ryan Theriot is a 12-for-22hitter (.545) with two doubles and two triples against Lohse.
As for Cain, he like every other human being to stand on amound -- will have to be careful with Carlos Beltran, who is 7 for 18 (.389)with a homer, two doubles and a triple. Jon Jay has been a tough matchup withfour hits in six at-bats.
But the focus will be on Holliday, whose takeout slide sentScutaro to the MRI chamber in Game 2.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy has declared the incident overand Scutaro said he only wants his pitchers to exact revenge by pitching nineinnings of shutout baseball. So Cain probably wont mete out any countryhardball justice.
But as Ryan Vogelsong demonstrated in Game 2, you have tobust Holliday inside to be successful, and Cain had no fears about doing that regardless of what intent people might put on it if he misses too far in.
You have to go out and pitch your game, Cain said. Ifsomething gets away from you inside, it gets away. Thats part of the game. Youvegot to pitch in and youve got to pitch away. You cant have a fear of doingthat.
Holliday is 8 for 40 (.200) against Cain with three homeruns.
One of those homers was the first Cain allowed in his bigleague career. Holliday was the fourth batter he faced in his debut, Aug. 29,2005 against the Colorado Rockies.
The two havent stopped battling since then.
Ive always been a guy whos going to challenge him and hesa guy whos going to challenge you at the plate, Cain said. Hes not afraidto swing the bat. So sometimes it depends on (whether) you throw the ball whereyou want to, because if you dont, he swings hard and hes going to takeadvantage of it. And its usually not going to be for a little sloppy single."