The Giants have drawn the Cardinals -- who rallied in the ninth inning to stun the Nationals in Game 5 of their series -- for a best-of-seven set that pits the last two World Series winners against each other with a ticket to another Fall Classic on the line.
It's a matchup that, on paper, appears even. Of course, "paper" projected the Giants and Cardinals to fall short of the NL Championship Series after the Nationals and Reds won 98 and 97 games, respectively, during the regular season.
The Giants will host the first two tilts of the series at AT&T Park, beginning on Sunday at 5 p.m. PT on FOX, though home field has yet to offer any advantages thus far. In their NL Division Series against the Reds, the visiting team won each game, just the second time in the Wild Card era that has occurred.
San Francisco became the first NL club since the Division Series was created in 1995 to win a best-of-five series after losing the first two games. The Reds, champions of the NL Central, hadn't dropped three consecutive contests at Great American Ball Park all season until the Giants stunned them.
"To come in [to Cincinnati] and do what they did is quite a task," said Giants manager Bruce Bochy, "and it's going against all odds, and they found a way to get it done."
The previous two World Series winners haven't met in the postseason since the New York Yankees and Milwaukee Braves dueled in the 1958 Fall Classic. The Cardinals and Giants have met twice in this round: St. Louis captured the 1987 NL pennant, and San Francisco advanced to the World Series in 2002.
The Giants like their chances this time around.
"We feel good," said right-hander Matt Cain. "We just want to keep carrying this over into it. We have a lot of work left to do."
The Cardinals and Giants split six meetings during the regular season. They each claimed one contest in a quick, two-game series in San Francisco in mid-May. In early August they halved a four-game set at Busch Stadium, although the Giants routed the Cards, 15-0, in one of the affairs.
Southpaw Madison Bumgarner went 0-2 with a 4.73 ERA in a pair of outings this season against the Cardinals. Cain compiled a 1-1 record and 6.94 ERA -- his highest mark against any opponent this season.
All of that, however, is simply fodder for background and history. Whether it translates to the field will be determined during the impending battle. The Giants' confidence couldn't be higher.
Said first baseman Brandon Belt: "We just have that mojo going right now."