This is the reason the St. Louis Cardinals fought so hard to win the National League Central Division during the regular season. The Cardinals ended up with the best record in the NL and have the right to play Game 6 and if necessary Game 7 of the NLCS at home. The Cards are looking to finish off the Dodgers and advance to the World Series and they seem more likely to do so at home. The Cardinals won two thirds of their games at Busch Stadium this year, and are 4-1 there thus far in the playoffs.
The Cardinals were in a similar situation in last year’s NLCS when they blew a 3-1 lead against the Giants. The difference this year is the home field advantage. The Cardinals lost games 6 and 7 in San Francisco last season, and that memory may have been gnawing at them down the stretch this year when they put so much energy into winning the division.
In each of the previous two seasons the Cardinals just made sure they made the playoffs with little emphasis on home field advantage, confident that their veteran club could win postseason games on the road. That plan went well with two deep postseason runs until it crashed in last year’s NLCS as the Cardinals rolled over in San Francisco. The team is also relying on more youthful pitching this year and the youngsters have fared much better at home than on the road.
Winning the best division in the NL comes with its rewards in the postseason, and that reward is the home field advantage that the Cards enjoyed in Game 5 of the Pittsburgh series as well as this weekend’s games in this round. The organization is determined to exorcise the demons of last year’s NLCS and the Busch Stadium faithful will be raucous to help them in their attempt to do so.
The fascinating thing about this round of the playoffs has been the pitching matchups. Supposedly the Dodgers felt comfortable when they fell down 3-1 in the series because they had starters Zach Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu slated to start the remaining games. By the same token, the Cardinals have to feel great despite dropping Game 5 and losing the momentum because they have Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright starting games 6 and 7. The Kershaw versus Wacha matchup was sensational in Game 2 and the rematch tonight should be thrilling again. The Cy Young favorite against the upstart rookie and whoever blinks first could decide the outcome of this crucial Game 6.