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NLCS Gm7: McCarthy and Conine preview Game 7

SAN FRANCISCO -- What, you thought we were going to get through the League Championship Series round of this postseason without a Game 7?

What kind of response would that be to a Division Series round that saw all four series go to Game 5?

Game 7 between the Giants and Cardinals comes upon us at AT&T Park on Monday night (8 p.m. ET on FOX), and it feels appropriate.

These are, after all, the past two World Series champions, and both clubs had to claw their way through a crazy comeback last round to get to this point in the postseason. We wanted a hard-fought, evenly matched series featuring the National League elite, and that's just what we've gotten.

Now, in the wake of the Giants' convincing 6-1 victory Sunday night, we've got one more game to savor. On the line is a date with Detroit, a matchup with Motown, a tango with the Tigers, a ... well, let's not oversell it.

Game 7, after all, has a way of selling itself.

"It's great TV," said the Cards' Adam Wainwright. "TV's going to love this. But fans in St. Louis probably have no fingernails left. And San Francisco, too."

Credit Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong for notching up the nail-biting and making this happen. They utterly stymied the potent Cardinals offense in Games 5 and 6 and postponed St. Louis' champagne celebration, perhaps indefinitely.

It's been a stunning shift in momentum that began with Zito, the oft-maligned $126 million man, turning in the performance of his life Friday night at Busch Stadium and continued with Vogelsong amping up the AT&T crowd with a shutdown start Sunday.

That pair paved the way to Mr. Perfect, Matt Cain, the Giants' undisputed ace. This postseason, Cain hasn't repeated his perfect-game performance of a few months back, nor has he continued his October 2010 run of allowing no earned runs. But each of his outings this postseason -- Games 1 and 5 of the NLDS with the Reds and Game 3 of this NLCS -- have been a little bit better than the one that came before. And it's no shock to suggest the Giants have great confidence in Cain.

The Cardinals aren't countering with their ace, per se, but Kyle Lohse has been nothing short of their most consistent pitcher in 2012. He certainly didn't dominate the Giants in Game 3, giving up seven hits and walking five in 5 2/3 innings, but his ability to pitch around traffic and escape jams was instrumental in the Cards earning an early advantage in this series.

"How could you not have faith in that guy?" second baseman Daniel Descalso said.

Both teams have faith, but who has the advantage? If you believe in the mojo of momentum, the help of the home field and the heft of history, you could make a strong case for the Giants.

To that last point, consider that 11 of the past 12 teams to win a Game 6 at home and force a Game 7 -- in any postseason round -- have gone on to win Game 7. The only exception there was the 2006 NLCS, when the Cardinals lost Game 6 at Shea Stadium and then won Game 7 against the Mets, en route to a World Series win over the Tigers.

But if we're going to add a little historical perspective, we must also note that the Cards, as a franchise, know this situation very well. Since the LCS rounds went to a best-of-seven format in 1985, the NLCS has reached a Game 7 eight previous times, and the Redbirds were involved in four of them. They won three of the four, with the lone exception coming when they were blown out by the Braves, 15-0, in 1996.

Anyway, all that historical mumbo-jumbo means absolutely nothing between the lines Monday night. All that matters is that the winning club advances to a World Series that will begin on its home turf, while the loser sees this crazy postseason come to an all-too-abrupt and bitter end.

Obviously, this will basically be an all-hands-on-deck affair. Of particular note is the likelihood that Tim Lincecum would be available in a long-relief role, should Cain falter. And the Cardinals will have to determine whether Matt Holliday is available to start after he was scratched late from Game 6 with back stiffness. His presence goes a long way toward lengthening a Cards lineup that already had to make do without Carlos Beltran for most of Game 3 and all of Game 4.

The Giants have been called "cockroaches" for the way they just won't die. They've definitely lived up to that handle, as they are now on the verge of winning three straight elimination games in consecutive postseason series. If they do it, they'll become just the second team to complete the feat, joining the 1985 Royals (who won the final three games of the World Series to beat the Cardinals).

"You go out there and you play like there's no tomorrow," manager Bruce Bochy said. "And these guys have done a great job of it."

The Cards, meanwhile, have lived up to the flair for the dramatic that came to define their exhausting and exhilarating title run of a year ago. Game 7? Been there, done that.

"This is what we do," Wainwright said with a smile.

Except this time, they're doing it with a rookie manager, attempting to become just the third club (1923-24 Giants, 1977-78 Yankees) to reach consecutive World Series with different managers.

So if you like a little perspective with your postseason viewing, well, there is plenty at your disposal.

Again, though, Game 7 sells itself.

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