But go back, even if you don’t want to, to Friday’s victory over the Washington Nationals in the decisive fifth game of their National League Division Series. That night, the Cardinals memorably fell behind 6-0, only to come back to win. The reasons for that comeback — Descalso’s game-tying, two-run single and Kozma’s game-winning two-run single — are already stitched in Washington baseball lore, a sordid place to be. But there would have been no comeback without the St. Louis bullpen, perhaps the true “Cardinals Strength.”
“The last two days,” Descalso said, “they’ve been huge for us.”
Sunday night, when starter Lance Lynn was handed a 6-0 lead and grew in danger of blowing it, the relievers came on. Six of them were necessary. “That wasn’t how we wanted to do this,” St. Louis Manager Mike Matheny said. But their contributions: 51
3 innings of two-hit, scoreless ball. A game that featured 10 runs before the fourth inning stayed that way.
“Usually,” Cardinals first baseman Allen Craig said, “games like that don’t.”
The NLCS — underway just 44 hours after the devastating events Friday night at Nationals Park — features the last two World Series champions. Each enjoyed an unlikely ride to those championships. But they also are unlikely participants in this NLCS.
The Giants are here not only because they won the National League West, but because they somehow lost the first two games of their division series at home, then went to Cincinnati and beat the Reds in three straight games.
But the Giants were only hosting Game 1 because of the even less likely events Friday in Washington. After wrapping up their series with the Reds last Thursday, the club remained in Cincinnati on Friday, sitting on the tarmac, waiting to find out who they would face — and where. When the Cardinals completed their comeback, the Giants’ charter had to wait some more: It was fueled only for a flight to Washington, and needed gas to get to San Francisco
When they arrived, they had a pitcher any team in the postseason would have liked on the mound, left-hander Madison Bumgarner, a 16-game winner who posted a 2.33 ERA at AT&T Park during the regular season. He would face Lynn, last seen on a baseball diamond allowing Jayson Werth’s game-ending homer in the bottom of the ninth after a 13-pitch at-bat in Game 4 at Nationals Park.