Buster Posey is the Most Valuable Player, the guy who came back from the worst on-field injury a member of the San Francisco Giants has suffered in at least 20 years. And as we gaze toward a Game 7 that will start in mere hours, Posey’s efforts to make everyone forget his offensively disappointing NLCS will certainly be an interesting storyline.

However, Game 7 is about Matthew Thomas Cain.

One could make an argument that for all that Posey has done — Willie Mac Award, batting title*, Comeback Player of the Year and probable MVP — this entire season has been just as much about Cain, if not more. The season started with Posey making his way back onto the field, but there was no threat of him leaving anytime soon. It seems like eons ago, but Cain’s future with the team was very much in doubt back in March. With free agency impending and Cain holding a great poker hand and not showing any tells, fans wondered whether in a year he’d be a Yankee or (gasp) a Dodger.

Then came the five-year extension Cain signed on the eve of the regular season, and everyone sat back and relaxed. Phew. Cain will not wear blue on a baseball field. Thank goodness.

But that was only the beginning. After a rough first start in Phoenix where Cain failed in his attempt to earn his $100+ million in one evening, Cain pitched the home opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Other than a single to left by pitcher James McDonald, Cain was perfect.

Two months later, on a Wednesday evening against the Houston Astros, Cain was perfect.

The St. Louis Cardinals provide a much tougher test than the Astros ever could, and they’ll be fighting just as intensely and desperately as the Giants in tonight’s game, a game that will change lives. But Cain doesn’t need to be perfect tonight, he needs to be better than Chico’s own Kyle Lohse.

Cain is 28, and was drafted by the Giants in the first round straight after finishing high school in Tennessee. Lohse is 34, and was drafted in the 29th round by the Chicago Cubs out of Butte Community College. The Giants are the only professional franchise Cain has ever known. Lohse was dealt to the Twins as a minor leaguer, and after several average seasons in Minnesota was dealt to the Reds, then the Phillies, then signed with the Cardinals as a free agent in 2008.

Unlike the Giants and Cain, the Cardinals did not extend Lohse this past Spring. So, he will be a free agent once again after the postseason concludes.

Statistically, there isn’t much difference between the 2012 seasons of Cain and Lohse. Both won 16 games (for those of you who still care about that). Cain’s SO/BB ratio was 3.78. Lohse? 3.76. Their stats are almost the same, but their respective gameplans are extremely different. 48% of Cain’s pitches were four-seam fastballs this season, and he threw sinkers 3% of the time. 50% of Lohse’s 2012 pitches were sinkers, and he threw his four-seamer 3% of the time.

While both pitchers are surrounded by talented and famous starters in their respective rotations, Cain and Lohse were their teams’ most dependable starters in 2012. It’s only fitting that they’ll square off tonight.

Rematch!

Cain and Lohse faced each other under similar circumstances last Wednesday. Series tied, clouds heavy with rain threatening any chances of a quick and tidy evening. It would be several hours before the final out was recorded, but Game 3 turned on the Giants in the 3rd inning.

They had Lohse on the ropes early in the top of that fateful inning, when an over-anxious Hunter Pence (is there any other kind of Hunter Pence?) came up with runners on the corners and one out. Pence made the mistake of trying to pull a Lohse sinker, and grounded to short … you know the rest. In the bottom half, Matt Carpenter made Carlos Beltran’s knee injury look like a diabolical plot with a 2-run homer off Cain.

In order to make sure Cain doesn’t need to be perfect against Carpenter (who isn’t in the lineup) and the rest of the St. Louis hitters Joe Buck and Tim McCarver will not-so-subtly be rooting for, the Giants must go against the impulse to get greedy against Lohse. Go with the pitches he throws. Hit the ball the opposite way. Think about line drives up the middle, not home runs into the left field bleachers or McCovey Cove.

Contest!

The Giants and Cardinals will fight for the right to go to the World Series. You have the chance to win dinner.

In the comments below, predict the score of tonight’s Game 7 and the NLCS MVP. The person who comes closest to the final score will win a gift certificate good for one Large Pizza (any toppings) from Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria. Here are the tiebreakers, in order.

  1. You must choose the 2012 NLCS champion correctly
  2. Closest to the total number of runs scored by both teams
  3. Closest to the correct Game 7 run differential
  4. Correct NLCS MVP
  5. If those tiebreakers don’t narrow it down to one winner, winner will be drawn at random

You must comment below with a legitimate email address to win. Good luck to you, and good luck to the Giants.

What, you were expecting objectivity? If you’ve been reading this site, you know how I feel about the Cardinals.