The Giants made it official after the Game 3 loss to the Cardinals, naming Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito their starters in St. Louis the next two days.
Madison Bumgarner, who took the loss in Game 1 after allowing six runs in 3 2/3 innings, will spend the rest of the NLCS in the bullpen.
Lincecum pitched two scoreless innings in relief in Game 1, and the Giants made it pretty obvious afterwards that their preference was to pitch in Game 4. It’ll be his first postseason start after three relief appearances in which he’s allowed one run and amassed a 9/1 K/BB ratio in 8 1/3 innings.
Zito will be making his second postseason start. He lasted just 2 2/3 innings and gave up two runs in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Reds, yet the Giants won anyway. They’ve prevailed in each of his last 12 starts.
With Lincecum starting, it will be interesting to see what the Giants do behind the plate Thursday. Hector Sanchez was Lincecum’s primary catcher throughout the second half, with Buster Posey often shifting to first base in Lincecum’s starts. However, the Lincecum-Posey pairing has worked out great so far during the postseason relief appearances. If Posey moves to first, then Brandon Belt, who is 3-for-11 with a double and an RBI in the NLCS, will take a seat.
With a 6-1 win over the Twins in Sunday’s season finale, the Royals clinched the best record in the American League, which nets them home field advantage in the ALDS and ALCS. The Royals stand at 95-67 while the Blue Jays, who lost on Sunday, finish at 93-69.
95-67 is the Royals’ best record since finishing 97-65 in 1980, when they lost the World Series to the Phillies. Their division title is their first since 1985.
In the ALDS, which starts on Thursday, the Royals will host the winner of the AL Wild Card game between the Astros and Yankees. They are looking to avenge last year’s World Series loss, in seven games, to the Giants. The Blue Jays will host the Rangers in the other ALDS series.
Both the Astros’ and the Yankees’ fates were decided before their own games had completed on Sunday. The Rangers defeated the Angels, which clinched a Wild Card spot for the Astros. Then the Astros dropped Sunday’s season finale to the Diamondbacks, which clinched the first AL Wild Card slot for the Yankees. The Yankees are on their way to a loss against the Orioles as of this writing, but that will not affect anything now.
The Astros were in a 3-3 tie with the Diamondbacks in the seventh inning, but reliever Chad Qualls served up a two-run home run to Paul Goldschmidt. That would prove to be the deciding factor in a 5-3 loss.
The Yankees are losing 7-4 to the Orioles behind a subpar start by Michael Pineda and a shaky performance by the bullpen.
The MLB postseason opens up with the Yankees hosting the Astros on Tuesday in the AL Wild Card game. The winner moves on to face the Royals in Kansas City in the ALDS.