The St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers scored 30 runs in two games at Miller Park. Postseason averages were padded. Postseason ERAs suffered an inflationary spiral. But here comes the real possibility of something more like an October classic.
The Cardinals and the Brewers will send out their best starters in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, scheduled for 8:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday at Busch Stadium. The series is tied at 1-1.
Chris Carpenter and Yovani Gallardo carry the genuine highest hopes of their teams. When Cardinals manager Tony La Russa was asked what the feeling was like having Carpenter starting for him in a pivotal Game 3, he responded: "It's a great feeling for us. Same exact feeling Milwaukee has with Gallardo."
"You would think it would be a low-scoring game," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "You never know."
The change in venue could make a difference also. During the season, these two clubs averaged 9.67 runs per game in their meetings at Miller Park. But at Busch Stadium, they scored only 5.33 runs per game. While neither of these parks is wildly tilted toward offense or pitching, there is little doubt that Busch is the more pitcher-friendly facility.
The two teams went 9-9 in the season series, each team winning five games at home and four on the road. The Brewers, of course, had the Major Leagues' best record at home, 57-24, and that not only reflects the confidence of their lineup but also feeds the confidence of their lineup.
"I think human nature, which includes confidence, and they're very confident in [Miller Park], so it's a factor," La Russa said.
"I mean, the history of our season this year against them, especially the games we got beat, is a crooked number. We lost maybe nine times, at least. Four or five of them, four of them we were sailing along and gave up four or five or six. Once they get rolling, we have done a poor job of stopping it at one or two. That's something we can control.
"But it's a better ballpark for hitters than St. Louis. That's why I like ballparks that play a little tougher."
The Game 3 starters should be able to slow down the scoring. The NLCS had to wait for Carpenter and Gallardo, because they each had to pitch in a decisive Game 5 for their teams to win their respective NL Division Series. While neither was available to start Game 1 of the NLCS, each of them could be available for an NLCS Game 7.
Carpenter pitched at his best when the time and place demanded his best. Against the heavily-favored Phillies in the deciding game of the NLDS, Carpenter produced a three-hit shutout in a 1-0 St. Louis victory. Matched against Roy Halladay, this game was an epic October pitching matchup.
Carpenter has a track record of postseason success. He is now 6-2 with a 2.94 earned run average in 11 postseason starts.
Carpenter came to the postseason pitching at a high level. In three of his last five starts he allowed no earned runs, finishing his regular-season work with a two-hitter in Houston.
At 25, Gallardo is 11 years younger than Carpenter. His postseason resume is only in its second year. But he's off to a fast start.
In four postseason appearances, three of them starts, Gallardo has compiled an ERA of 0.86. That includes a 1.29 ERA in the 2011 NLDS. Gallardo limited the Arizona Diamondbacks to one run on four hits over eight innings in his Game 1 NLDS start, and then held them to one run in six innings as the Brewers went on to win Game 5.
And like Carpenter, Gallardo had a strong September lead-in for his postseason work. In his last three regular-season starts, over 20 1/3 innings, Gallardo struck out 36 while giving up only 12 hits.
One set of numbers arguing against a pitchers' duel would be Gallardo's career work against the Cards. He is 1-7 with a 5.66 ERA in 11 career starts against St. Louis. But his better form recently argues against the Redbirds knocking him around in similar fashion.
One way or another, Gallardo is savoring the challenge.
"For a starting pitcher, it doesn't get any better than this, obviously facing a great pitcher on the other side and a great team," Gallardo said. "I think that Game 5 in the last series is probably the most important game I ever pitched. Here I am, back again, Game 3, facing these guys with the series tied, 1-1."
Add it all up: A change in venue to a less hitter-friendly park, the two best starters available to these two clubs working the same game. The pendulum should be swinging back toward the pitching direction for Game 3.