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.

Report: Orioles interested in Lance Lynn

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The Orioles singlehandedly kept the rumor mill churning this weekend. MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports that the club is interested in making a play for free agent right-hander Lance Lynn, adding him to a list of potential candidates that also includes free agent righty Alex Cobb. The two are expected to command similar contracts in free agency, but Morosi notes that the Orioles may prefer Cobb based on his familiarity with the AL East.

Lynn, 30, is two years removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Despite missing the 2016 season, he bounced back with a respectable 11-8 record in 33 starts and complemented his efforts with a 3.43 ERA, 3.8 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9 over 186 1/3 innings for the 2017 Cardinals. He lost several days with a blister on his pitching hand in early September, but managed to avoid any major injuries and can reasonably be expected to shoulder another heavy workload in 2018.

Lynn may not be the Orioles’ first choice to beef up their starting rotation, but there’s no doubt that he’ll be in high demand as one of very few viable starters on the market this winter. The veteran righty rejected his one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Cardinals on Thursday and will likely be seeking a multi-year contract, one that Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch estimates around five years and $100+ million. If the Orioles are willing to bite that bullet, they’ll still need to compensate the Cardinals with their third pick in next year’s draft.