Lohse slider leads postseason resurgence

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Carlos Beltran is batting .378 in his postseason career, highest in baseball history among players with at least 100 plate appearances.With their series knotted at one game apiece, the St. Louis Cardinals host the San Francisco Giants in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday afternoon (4 ET, ESPN Radio & Fox). The Giants have won five of the last seven postseason meetings between teams dating to 2002, and will look to make it six of eight against Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse.

Lohse is just 1-4 in 11-career postseason appearances, but has a 2.13 ERA in his two playoff starts in 2012. One reason for the turnaround? Increased use of his slider. Lohse threw a slider just seven percent of the time in the 2011 postseason.

So far in 2012, he’s used the slider 23 percent of the time and it’s been nearly unhittable. Opponents are batting .077 on plate appearances ending in a slider during the postseason with three strikeouts and no extra-base hits. The Giants hit .218 as a team against sliders in the regular season and just .161 against them so far in the playoffs.

In the other dugout, the Giants turn to Matt Cain in hopes that he can regain his old postseason form. Cain began his playoff career with 21⅓ scoreless innings pitched.

Matt Cain Postseason Career

In two starts during the 2012 postseason, Cain has allowed six earned runs including three home runs in just 10⅔ innings pitched.

One key for Cain if he is going to be able to bounce back is his fastball. Cardinals hitters were 7-for-17 (.417) in at-bats ending in a Cain fastball during the regular season and six of those hits were on fastballs in the upper half of the strike zone.

Cain will be best served keeping his fastball down in Game 3: The Cardinals led all of baseball with a .291 team batting average against fastballs in the upper half of the strike zone this season and were ninth in batting average against fastballs in the lower half.

Offensively for the Giants, Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro, Gregor Blanco, and Brandon Belt hope to ride the momentum of their Game 2 win. The four players went 7-for-14 as a group on Monday with homer, five runs, and three RBI. They were collectively hitting just .188 entering Game 2.

For the Cardinals, they will lean on the hot bat of Carlos Beltran. Beltran is hitting .414 this postseason including his 2-for-3 performance on Monday. In his career, Beltran is batting .378 in 30 postseason games, the highest average in baseball history for players with at least 100 plate appearances.

Can it continue in Game 3? Odds are certainly favorable. Beltran is 7-for-18 (.389) against Matt Cain in his career with a homer, five RBI and a 1.228 OPS.