Programming note: For comprehensive Giants-Cardinals NLCS coverage, watch “October Quest” tonight at 6:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.
SAN FRANCISCO -– The Giants already paid their Wild Card tax.
They only got to throw Madison Bumgarner once in their NL Division Series with the Washington Nationals, and survived it by winning the three games in which their left-handed ace didn’t appear.
Now it all sets up fresh against the St. Louis Cardinals in an NLCS rematch that begins Saturday at Busch Stadium. Bumgarner would start Game 1 on regular rest, presumably against Adam Wainwright if the Cards’ right-handed ace is fit enough to go.
Jake Peavy would follow in Game 2 against right-hander Lance Lynn, unless he’s needed to take Wainwright’s spot.
The rest of the rotation would play out at AT&T Park with Tim Hudson against right-hander John Lackey in Game 3, then Ryan Vogelsong against right-hander Shelby Miller in Game 4.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy didn’t announce anything at Wednesday’s workout because he hadn’t finalized the order with pitching coach Dave Righetti. But Bochy said he had no problem turning to Bumgarner to set a series tone on normal rest.
In fact, Bumgarner wanted to pitch on zero rest in Game 4 against the Nationals Tuesday night.
"He was bugging me last night," Bochy said. "I swear, three or four times, it was, 'I can get LaRoche. I can get Harper.' After Harper hit the home run, I said, 'OK, get your spikes on.'"
Bochy was joking about that last part. But not the rest.
“Jeez, every time I turned around, I bumped into him,” the manager said.
And with another NLCS cocktail soiree about to begin, here are the Giants and Cardinals again, each with a napkin full of canapés.
The Cardinals are in their fourth consecutive NLCS. The Giants are here for the third time in five years. It’ll mark the fifth consecutive time that one of these two teams will claim the NL pennant and go to the World Series.
“What they’ve done is incredible,” Bochy said. “That’s a model of consistency. The Cardinals have a lot to be proud of.”
Bochy won’t be tangling with a rookie manager this time. Mike Matheny might have been tentative in 2012 after the Cardinals won three of the first four games, only to watch the Giants rattle off three elimination victories to take the series. There were times Mitchell Boggs was on the mound when it should’ve been Trevor Rosenthal.
Another rookie manager, the Nationals’ Matt Williams made even more questionable bullpen decisions –- especially pulling Jordan Zimmermann in Game 2 and then watching the Giants re-take the lead in the seventh while his best two relievers, as well as Stephen Strasburg, sat on their hands.
The Giants won’t have that advantage now. Matheny has experience to go along with his advanced baseball acumen, and they have momentum coming off twin dismantlings of Clayton Kershaw.
The Cardinals didn’t hit for much power in the regular season but they sure barreled it up in their NLDS victory didn’t they?
“Boy, they did, and lefty on lefty too,” Bochy said. “I watched the series. They were pounding the ball. They didn’t make mistakes. You talk about making the right moves, but you can make the right move and it may not work.”
What moves did the Giants and Cardinals make, then, to keep arriving at the same destination? The Giants don’t have Matt Cain or a top-form Tim Lincecum, after all. They’ve undergone many changes from 2010 to ’12 to now. The Cardinals had their share of roster renovations as well over their streak, even letting Albert Pujols walk away.
Left-hander Javier Lopez has a theory.
“I feel like the Cardinals have a lot of system guys,” Lopez said. “They have a certain kind of player and they start developing them in A ball. They teach you the winning ways, and that’s a testament to the organization. That’s something that comes through, especially in the postseason.
“I feel that’s the same thing you see here. We’ve kept that continuity with Bochy and the coaching staff and front office, and the philosophy hasn’t changed. You see it come to fruition with a Joe Panik and a Matt Duffy and a Hunter Strickland. That’s how you build success. You keep adding pieces. You never really stop building.”
The Giants have just two players on their roster who joined the club as unrestricted major league free agents: Hudson and Jeremy Affeldt. The rest were developed or acquired by trade. There’s a built-in advantage to being a roster locavore: Your manager knows his personnel even better, and that makes a huge difference when you decide how best to deploy them in October.
“Oh, I’d agree, and Bochy the last two postseasons has done that,” Lopez said. “He’s experimented in the past and found something that works for him and for us. And the Cardinals, they have Matheny, who steps in and picks up right where Tony La Russa left off. They’re both former catchers and they have a different view of the game as a result.
“And one other thing they have as well as we do is that no-panic mentality. They were down and they continued to have good at-bats. We were able to be resilient as well. That’s what is going to make this series a lot of fun -– for the players, anyway.”
There will be plenty of attention on the catchers, Buster Posey and Yadier Molina, just as there was two years ago.
“Our Buster, their Adam Wainwrights and Molinas, they give us an identity when we get in these situations,” Tim Lincecum said. “That’s the foundation we lean on and that’s why we’re able to get production when it matters.”