SAN FRANCISCO -- Call it torture. Call it grinding. Call it what you want, the St. Louis Cardinals hitters call it winning.
They take some of the most professional at-bats this side of the legend of Ted Williams. Check out David Freese and Yadier Molina in the ninth inning against the Nationals in Game 5. Check out Freese and Carlos Beltran and, yes, those piranhas David Descalso and Pete Kozma in the Cardinals' 6-4 Game 1 statement over the Giants in the NL Championship Series on Sunday night.
The Cardinals blasted Madison Bumgarner into submission, setting the tone for this series right away. They scored all six runs against Bumgarner in the first 3 2/3 innings, scraped up all eight of their hits against him and surely sent the Giants' braintrust into the San Francisco evening pondering the question: Can we afford to give Madison Bumgarner even one more start?
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The answer to that question should be a resounding no. Bumgarner started the 9-0 Game 2 loss to Cincinnati last round. Put that fiasco together with Sunday's, and you've got a starter who is more cooked than your grandmother's meatloaf. Bumgarner has worked eight innings this postseason and surrendered 10 earned runs on 15 hits.
That weak stuff might work against the Astros. But the Cardinals are not the Astros. These guys have the closest thing to an American League lineup that the National League offers. They ranked second in the league in runs scored at 765, trailing only the Brewers' 776, and had they not lost Lance Berkman and Rafael Furcal there would have been no holding them out of the top spot.
The window has narrowed considerably over the past week, however, and the only club needing to be concerned with shutting down St. Louis at the moment is the Giants. Once Bumgarner left, a succession of relievers -- including one Timothy LeRoy Lincecum -- shut them down without a hit over the game's final five innings.
Next up: Ryan Vogelsong for the Giants in Game 2.
Can he shut down the Cardinals? Or will it be another contest to see how many runs St. Louis can score before the Giants remove their next starter?
With Game 2 on deck, the early view is that this thing could turn into a battle of the bullpens.