Cardinals will try to finish off the Giants in five

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Is everyone all geared up to see the NL’s fifth best team and the AL’s seventh best team square off in the World Series?

Of course, the Cardinals and Tigers have genuinely looked like baseball’s best teams during October. And if some would prefer neither had reached the postseason because they weren’t all that good in the regular season, well, that’s just too bad.

One win away from reaching the World Series, the Cardinals will send Lance Lynn to the mound in Friday’s Game 5 in St. Louis. The 18-game winner will be opposed by 15-game winner Barry Zito.

The Cardinals should be favored in the game, but to win, they’ll need to overcome the Giants’ good luck charm. The team has won each of Zito’s last 12 starts, including Game 4 against the Reds in the NLDS when Zito lasted just 2 2/3 innings and gave up two runs. Zito himself hasn’t been all that much better than usual with a 4.04 ERA during the streak. He was 8-8 with a 4.27 ERA before it began.

Coincidentally, the Zito streak actually started in St. Louis, with the Giants winning 4-2 on Aug. 7. It was Zito’s only start versus St. Louis this year, and he allowed two runs and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings. Lynn took the loss for the Cardinals that game.

Lynn also had a bit of a rough go of it in his Game 1 start in the NLCS, surrendering four runs in 3 2/3 innings. However, the Cardinals went on to win the game 6-4.

Even if the pitching matchup isn’t necessarily a big point in the Cardinals’ favor for Game 5, they’d seem to have the advantage on offense and in the pen. They used only Fernando Salas in relief in the Game 4 rout, meaning that Friday’s game will likely feature an ample helping of Trevor Rosenthal and Jason Motte if it stays close.

Also, the Cardinals are aiming to get Carlos Beltran back into a lineup that’s been the most productive of any in either league this month. Beltran left Wednesday’s game with a knee strain and didn’t play Thursday. Matt Carpenter has done a terrific job filling in, homering off the bench in Game 3 and then reaching three times and scoring twice in Game 4.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.