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A capsule look at Cardinals-Giants series

A capsule look at Cardinals-Giants series

A look at the best-of-seven National League championship series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants:

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Schedule: (All times EDT)

Game 1, Sunday, at San Francisco (8:15 p.m.); Game 2, Monday, at San Francisco (8:07 p.m.); Game 3, Wednesday, at St. Louis (4:07 p.m.); Game 4, Thursday, at St. Louis (8:07 p.m.); x-Game 5, Friday, at St. Louis (8:07 p.m.); x-Game 6, Sunday, at San Francisco (4:45 p.m.); x-Game 7, Monday, at San Francisco (8:07 p.m.). (All games on Fox).

x-if necessary.

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Season Series:

Tied, 3-all.

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Projected Lineups (regular season statistics):

Cardinals: CF Jon Jay (.305, 4 HRs, 40 RBIs, 18 SBs, .373 OBP), RF Carlos Beltran (.269, 32, 97), LF Matt Holliday (.295, 27, 102), 1B Allen Craig (.307, 22, 92), C Yadier Molina (.315, 22, 76), 3B David Freese (.293, 20, 79), 2B Daniel Descalso (.227, 4, 26), SS Pete Kozma (.333, 2, 14).

Giants: CF Angel Pagan (.288, 8, 56, 29 SBs, 15 3Bs), 2B Marco Scutaro (.306, 7, 74 for Giants and Rockies), 3B Pablo Sandoval (.283, 12, 63), C Buster Posey (.336, 24, 103, 39 2Bs), RF Hunter Pence (.253, 24, 104 for Giants and Phillies), 1B Brandon Belt (.275, 7, 56), LF Gregor Blanco (.244, 5, 34, 26 SBs) or Xavier Nady (.184, 4, 13 for Giants and Nationals), SS Brandon Crawford (.248, 4, 45).

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Projected Rotations:

Cardinals: RH Lance Lynn (18-7, 3.78 ERA), RH Chris Carpenter (0-2, 3.71 in 3 starts after shoulder surgery), RH Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86), RH Adam Wainwright (14-13, 3.94).

Giants: LH Madison Bumgarner (16-11, 3.37, 191 Ks), RH Ryan Vogelsong (14-9, 3.37 in 31 starts), RH Matt Cain (16-5, 2.79, 193 Ks, 219 1-3 IP, first perfect game in franchise history June 13 vs. Astros), RH Tim Lincecum (10-15, 5.18, 186 IP, 190 Ks, matched career high with 17 wild pitches) or LH Barry Zito (15-8, 4.15, 184 1-3 IP; won final 5 starts and 7 straight decisions).

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Relievers:

Cardinals: RH Jason Motte (4-5, 2.75, 42/49 saves, 86K, 71 1-3 IP), RH Mitchell Boggs (4-1, 2.21, 78 games), RH Edward Mujica (0-3, 3.03), RH Fernando Salas (1-4, 4.30), RH Joe Kelly (5-7, 3.53), LH Marc Rzepczynski (1-3, 4.27), RH Trevor Rosenthal (0-2, 2.78, 100 mph fastball), RH Shelby Miller (1-0, 1.32, 6 games).

Giants: RH Sergio Romo (4-2, 1.79, 14/15 saves, .185 BA against), LH Javier Lopez (3-0, 2.50, 7 saves, .191 BA vs. LH), RH Santiago Casilla (7-6, 2.84, 25/31 saves), LH Jeremy Affeldt (1-2, 2.70, 3 saves), RH George Kontos (2-1, 2.47 ERA), RH Guillermo Mota (0-1, 5.23).

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Matchups:

The past two World Series champions meet to see who gets a chance to win this year's crown. The Giants wiped out Texas in 2011, the Cards edged the Rangers last year. ... These teams have met twice in the NLCS. The Cardinals overcame a power show by Jeffrey Leonard to outlast SF in seven games in 1987, then the Giants triumphed in five games in 2002 and sent Barry Bonds to his only World Series. ... The teams split both series this year - a two-game set in San Francisco in May and a four-gamer at Busch Stadium in August. Marco Scutaro hit a grand slam and had 7 RBIs for the Giants in a 15-0 romp, the Cards' worst home shutout loss since 1961. ... Posey went 10 for 21 with two HRs and six RBIs in the six games. ... Pagan had a .500 OBP against the Cardinals. ... Beltran is 7 for 14 with six walks, three doubles and one homer off Lincecum. ... There's some crossover between the teams. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny closed his playing days with the Giants. The Gold Glove catcher spent two seasons with San Francisco, and ended his career because of concussion symptoms. ... Beltran spent the last half of 2011 with the Giants, then signed with St. Louis as a free agent.

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Big Picture:

Cardinals: These Cards sure are a high-flying act, aren't they? Down to their last strike, they rallied for four runs in the ninth inning to beat Washington 9-7 in the deciding Game 5 of the NL division series. If the comeback seemed somewhat familiar, there's good reason: Just like last year in Game 6 vs. Texas, the Cardinals trailed 7-5 in the ninth, had two outs, two on and two strikes on Freese before saving their season. They advanced this year minus the Rally Squirrel that fired up their fans last fall. ... St. Louis returns to the NLCS for the seventh time since the start of the 2000 season, moving on despite missing injured All-Stars SS Rafael Furcal and 1B Lance Berkman. ... The Cardinals will be minus LH Jaime Garcia against the Giants. He left after two innings vs. Washington because of a strained rotator cuff and was taken off the roster, replaced by rookie RH Shelby Miller. ... The Cardinals were the last team to reach the playoffs this year, clinching the second NL wild-card spot on the next-to-last day of the season. ... St. Louis seems to relish this wild-card role. The Cards won the World Series last year in the same position, then saw slugger Albert Pujols leave as a free agent and saw manager Tony La Russa retire. ... Like the Giants with Posey, the Cardinals have an NL MVP candidate at catcher. Molina had a career season that justified the five-year, $75 million contract extension he signed in spring training. On track for a fifth straight Gold Glove, Molina has an arm that discourages runners from even trying to steal. He had personal bests at the plate, too, finishing fourth in the league in hitting. ... They wound up nine games behind Cincinnati in the NL Central, but their October pedigree is showing through. St. Louis won at Atlanta 6-3 in the wild-card playoff, helped by a disputed infield-fly call. In the NLDS, Carpenter came back from an injured-interrupted season to post his first victory since winning Game 7 of last year's World Series. Carpenter is 10-2 lifetime in the postsea son and has won five straight decisions.

Giants: The NL West champion Giants became the ninth team to overcome a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-five postseason series and first to do it by winning the final three games on the road, rallying past Cincinnati. ... Posey, who missed most of last season after serious leg and ankle injuries from a frightening collision at home plate with the Marlins' Scott Cousins on May 25, returned every bit the player he was during his 2010 NL Rookie of the Year campaign. He won the NL batting title and is a top contender for the MVP. He made a big impact against the Reds when he hit two homers, including a grand slam in the decisive Game 5 win. ... Manager Bruce Bochy's team rode pitching to the title in 2010 but the lineup this year is much more dangerous, especially on the road. The Giants were the second highest-scoring team on the road in the regular season, averaging 5.1 runs per game. ... San Francisco became the first team since the 1987 Cardinals to make the playoffs with the fewest homers in the majors, hitting just 103. ... In April, the Giants lost All-Star closer and 2010 major league saves leader Brian Wilson. In August, they lost All-Star game MVP Melky Cabrera to 50-game suspension for a positive testosterone test. Cabrera (.346) was reinstated by Major League Baseball on Friday, but the Giants don't plan to put him on the playoff roster. ... Just as he did two years ago during that World Series championship run, GM Brian Sabean brought in key pieces to fill key needs: Scutaro at second and Pence in right field. They're not quite the castoffs and misfits of 2010 - Cody Ross, Pat Burrell - but more a team that overcame the absence of switch-hitting Sandoval because of two DL stints and moved forward seemingly unfazed when Cabrera got suspended. ... Sandoval made up for his playoff flop in 2010, hitting .333 with a homer and three RBIs in the first round. He appeared in only six postseason games and one in the World Series in 2010 - batting .176 (3 for 17) with two RBIs and three strikeouts. ... Giants rookie Hector Sanchez might catch, with Posey moving to first base, when Lincecum or Zito starts.

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Watch For:

- Timmy Time. Lincecum looked nothing like a two-time Cy Young winner when he posted the highest ERA in the National League in the regular season. That performance kept him out of the rotation in the first round, but he excelled in his new role as a reliever. He allowed one run, three hits and no walks in 6 1-3 innings, getting the win in Game 4. He could move back into the rotation in the NLCS after Zito lasted just 2 2-3 innings in his one start.

- Triples Alley. The Giants hit just 31 homers during the regular season at AT&T Park - six fewer than Barry Bonds hit himself there during his record-setting 2001 season. They made up for the lack of longballs with a major league-leading 57, including 29 at home with the spacious right-center field.

- Carp in Control. It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that Chris Carpenter wouldn't pitch in 2012, especially after the 37-year-old had a procedure in July to relieve nerve pressure in his pitching shoulder that caused numbness to the entire right side of his body. Winless in three starts in September, he pitched shutout ball to win his start in the NLDS. It was his first victory since Game 7 of the World Series last year, and re-established him as an October ace.

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3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

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USA TODAY Sports

3 reasons why the Caps lost to the Lightning

After a rough start, the Caps battled back to make a game of it against Tampa Bay, but ultimately fell 4-2 to the Lightning. Here's why.

The first period

To put it simply, this game was lost in the opening period. Washington was the better team for the second and third but they could not overcome the 3-0 lead they spotted the Lightning in the first. Beyond the goals, the Caps just did not play well. Even the simplest of plays looked difficult as Washington struggled to get the puck out of their own zone, gave up numerous turnovers and scoring chances and just looked overmatched. Braden Holtby also looked shaky allowing three goals on just eight shots. Usually he is able to cover up some of the mistakes the defense makes it front of him, but he was not there to bail the team out on Tuesday in what was a really rocky start.

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-LIGHTNING

Taking a penalty 34 seconds into the game

Entering Tuesday’s game, Tampa Bay boasted the second best power play unit in the league. Playing a disciplined game is part of every game plan, but that is especially true against such a dominant unit. Giving up a penalty just 34 seconds into the game was not an ideal start. The call itself was debatable. Brett Connolly was called for interference when he knocked over Dan Girardi in the offensive zone. The puck was just behind Girardi as he had lost control of it in his skates. The sticking point here is that Girardi no longer had possession and Connolly could have played the puck instead of the player. Most referees would probably let that go with the puck so close, but Connolly was not so lucky. Whether it was a good call or not, the Caps found themselves down a man and down a goal soon after as Brayden Point scored the power play tally.

A missed opportunity from Kuznetsov on one end, a goal for Nikita Kucherov on the other

Even after spotting the Lightning a 3-0 lead, the Caps made a game of it. Lars Eller struck on the power play in the second period and Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington to within one with about nine minutes left to play. Just over a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov stole the puck away from Nikita Kucherov, the frontrunner for league MVP this season, at the Tampa blue line giving the Caps a short 2-on-1. Defenseman Andrej Sustr was textbook on the play forcing Kuznetsov as far wide as he could go while still covering the passing lane and Kuznetsov elected to shoot from the faceoff dot rather than attempt the pass to T.J. Oshie.Andrei Vasilevskiy made a routine blocker save to deny what looked like a great opportunity to tie the game. As always happens in hockey, a failed opportunity on one end led to an opportunity in the other direction. Less than a minute later, Kucherov made up for his mistake by scoring a breakaway goal to put the game out of reach at 4-2.

MORE CAPITALS: KEMPNY EXCITED TO MOVE FROM LAST PLACE CHICAGO TO FIRST PLACE WASHINGTON

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3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

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USA TODAY Sports

3 stars of the game: Lightning strike 3 times in the first to burn Caps

The first 20 minutes of Tuesday's game did not go well for Washington. The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three times in the opening frame and rode that lead all the way to the 4-2 win.

With the game heading towards a repeat of their blowout loss to Chicago, the Capitals rebounded in the second period to make a game of it as Lars Eller scored on a power play. Alex Ovechkin pulled Washington within one in the third period, but Nikita Kucherov slammed the door shut with a breakaway goal to extend the lead back to 2.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Brayden Point: Tampa Bay won this game in the first period when they took a 3-0 lead. Point scored two of those three goals. His first came at the 2:30 mark of the game. He retreated to the blue line on the power play believing Jay Beagle would clear the puck. When Beagle turned the puck over, he recognized it and immediately crashed the net, taking a Ryan Callahan pass in the slot and shooting it through the five-hole of Braden Holtby. On his second goal, Anton Stralman saw an opportunity on the Caps’ line change and passed the puck up to Point at the blue line. Point turned on the jets to get behind the defense and went five-hole again on Holtby to make the score 3-0.

2. Alex Ovechkin: After the first period, Washington slowly took this game over for much of the remaining 40 minutes. Ovechkin was a big part of that as he totaled an incredible 19 shot attempts for the game. Nine of those shots were on goal and he found the back of the net in the third period for career goal No. 594.

3. Tom Wilson: Through the first period, the Caps looked well on their way to a repeat of the 7-1 debacle they suffered Saturday in Chicago. They had nothing going in this game until Wilson drew a trip from Vladislav Namestnikov in the second period. Eller would score on the resulting power play giving Washington some much-needed life. The Namestnikov penalty was the 29th drawn penalty of the season for Wilson, which moves him into a tie with Matthew Tkachuk for the most drawn penalties in the NHL.