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NLCS Gm5: Greinke, Garcia set to face off in Game 5

With the best-of-seven National League Championship Series tied at two games apiece, you cannot technically refer to Game 5 as a "must win" for either the St. Louis Cardinals or the Milwaukee Brewers.

But Game 5 can safely be placed in the "You'd-better-win-or-else" category.

Friday's Game 5 features a rematch of the Game 1 starters -- Jaime Garcia for the Cardinals and Zack Greinke for the Brewers. Milwaukee won the opener, 9-6, at Miller Park.

If the Cards lose Game 5, they would then be faced with the task of winning the final two games in Milwaukee. The Brewers had the Major Leagues' best home record this season. In the postseason, they are 4-1 at Miller Park. They don't show much inclination toward an 0-2 stretch.

If, however, the Brewers lose Game 5, they'll be gazing at elimination in Game 6, with Shaun Marcum going for them. Marcum has been shelled in two straight postseason starts and has not pitched consistently well since August. Milwaukee's fifth starter in the regular season, Chris Narveson, had good numbers against St. Louis, but as of Thursday night, the Brewers were still planning on Marcum for Game 6.

The two teams are now 11-11 against each other this year, including the postseason. With one more game left in Busch Stadium, the pitchers might want to savor the venue. The Brewers and Cardinals averaged 15 combined runs per game in the first two games of this series in Milwaukee. In the last two in St. Louis, they averaged 6.5 runs per game.

The bullpens have been more effective than the starters in this series. In fact, when Milwaukee's Randy Wolf went seven innings Thursday night in winning Game 4, he became the first starter in this series to work beyond the sixth inning.

"It's two really tough teams," Wolf said. "There's no way I could put it into words, just the intensity that's there every inning. You know how important every out is. You know how either team, if they have an opportunity to score, how good they are at taking advantage of that opportunity.

"So the main thing you want to do is stay out of trouble, but you know, fortunately today, we had some big hits, got that two-run lead, which I think just afforded me to be able to go a little bit longer and a little deeper in the game. If it's 2-2 or 3-2, I may not be out there in the sixth or seventh inning."

On Garcia's side of the Game 5 argument, he had better numbers at home this season. He was 9-4 with a 2.55 ERA at Busch Stadium, as opposed to 4-3, 4.61 on the road.

"I've said this before, I feel really good about myself, physically and mentally, and I'm ready to go," Garcia said Thursday. "Obviously, I like pitching [at home]. But I don't really feel any different on the road. I just feel like a lot of this throughout the year, a lot of the times where I've pitched on the road, it's just one of those things didn't go your way. But I've had some good games on the road, and then some not very good at home. So I can't really answer your question, because to me, it's all the same. Obviously, I like pitching at home; you have the fans, you can sleep in your own bed. But other than that, to me, it's the same."

Greinke is 1-0 but with an 8.18 ERA in his two postseason starts this October, the first postseason starts of his career. Greinke says that he has not found the postseason to be a completely different animal.

"In all honesty, it's just another game, kind of," he said. "I thought it might be a lot different, but it's really just a normal game, and you just get as ready as you can and do what you can.

"The first two games I've given up some runs, but I've been really happy with how I've pitched. So I'm just going to do what I can do, and if I throw good, I'll be happy."

Great import will be placed on the outcome of Game 5 of the 2011 NLCS. The Cardinals don't want to go back to Milwaukee one loss away from being sent away. And the Brewers don't want to be in a position where they are one Marcum start away from postseason elimination.

Losing Game 5 might not be automatically fatal. But it definitely would not be advisable. Comments