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.

Astros’ bullpen throws combined one-hitter for MLB-best 30th win

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The Astros’ bullpen did yeoman’s work in place of the injured Dallas Keuchel on Monday against the Tigers. Keuchel is temporarily sidelined with a pinched nerve in his neck.

Brad Peacock made the spot start, limiting the Tigers to one hit and two walks with eight strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings. Chris Devenski took over with one out in the fifth, finishing out that inning as well as the sixth and seventh, facing the minimum. Will Harris pitched a perfect eighth and Ken Giles closed out the 1-0 victory in the ninth. Devenski, Harris, and Giles each had two strikeouts.

The Astros scored their only run in the bottom of the first inning as George Springer drew a leadoff walk, then scored on Jose Altuve‘s one-out double. Tigers starter Brad Fulmer pitched well enough to win on most days, giving up the lone run in seven frames.

After Monday’s win, the Astros became the first team to reach 30 wins, sitting on a 30-15 record. With a +55 run differential, even their expected record matches up with their actual record.

Brandon Phillips hit his 200th career home run

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Braves second baseman Brandon Phillips became the 337th player in baseball history to hit 200 career home runs, driving a solo home run to left-center field during Monday night’s home game against the Pirates. Phillips is the 14th second baseman (who played a min. of 75 percent of his career games at the position) to rack up at least 200 career home runs.

Phillips, 35, entered Monday’s action batting .290/.345/.405 with two home runs and 12 RBI in 142 plate appearances. If he’s anything, he’s consistent, as he finished with an adjusted OPS between 90-99 (100 is average) every year between 2012-16 and it was sitting at 97 coming into Monday.