On-Base Perception

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Seven Reasons to watch NLCS Game 7

Carlos Beltran of the St. Louis Cardinals looks

Carlos Beltran of the St. Louis Cardinals looks on before taking on the San Francisco Giants in Game Six of the National League Championship Series.(Oct. 21, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

Despite baseball's designation as America's “national pastime,” we know football is king.

So even though you might be tempted to trade the final game of the National League Championship Series for a regular season matchup between Detroit and Chicago on Monday Night Football (or a presidential debate), here's why you should stay focused on Game 7 between the Cardinals and Giants (or at least switch back frequently):

1. Anything can--and usually does--happen

A Game 7 means all-hands-on-deck, all-out for every catch and heightened drama for every pitch and every swing. That means you get to see things like Endy Chavez leaping over the wall at Shea Stadium to rob a home run from Scott Rolen. Or Randy Johnson pitching in relief. Or Johnny Damon hitting a grand slam to keep momentum on the side of the Red Sox. Game 7's aren't always the best game of the series, but they tend to include some of the best and most memorable moments.

2. Carlos Beltran

The last NLCS that stretched to seven games came in 2006 when Carlos Beltran ended the Mets season by staring at St. Louis pitcher Adam Wainwright's curveball for a called strike 3. Now Beltran is a member of the Cardinals and is trying to advance to the World Series for the first time in his career. Beltran has the highest slugging percentage in postseason history (.800) and is tied for the most home runs in a single postseason (eight in 2004 despite not advancing to the World Series). He's hitting .368 with three home runs so far this postseason.

3. Matt Cain

Matt Cain will start for the Giants and, as he proved earlier this season, he has the ability to be unhittable. Cain threw the first perfect game in franchise history and the 22nd in MLB history on June 13. He also has three one-hitters in his career. Due to Tim Lincecum's struggles in 2012, Cain has become the unquestioned ace of the San Francisco staff, and now he'll have a shot to show the world why he's one of the best pitchers in all of baseball.

4. New vs. old

To borrow a line from “How I Met Your Mother,” “New is always better.” At least that's what Mike Matheny is hoping. The first-year manager of the Cardinals—who had no prior managing experience—has already navigated his resilient team through a one-game Wild-Card playoff and a wild Game 5 of the National League Division Series. Meanwhile, Giants manager Bruce Bochy has some serious clutch credentials of his own. He skippered the team when they won the World Series in 2010 and guided the Giants back from a 0-2 deficit in the NLDS and a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS to force this Game 7.

5. (A lack of) Melky Cabrera

After Melky Cabrera was suspended 50 games for using a performance-enhancing drug on Aug. 15, many wrote off the Giants chances at obtaining a division title, never mind contending for the World Series. After all, Cabrera was the Giants unquestioned MVP, hitting .346 with a .516 slugging percentage. But the Giants went 30-14 after the suspension, won the NL West and are now on the verge of making their second World Series in three years. The Giants had the chance to include Cabrera on the NLCS roster, but chose not to. So give them a view if for no other reason than the Giants—the team of Barry Bonds—is shunning a PED cheat.

6. A Cardinals dynasty

If the Cardinals make the World Series, they'll be one step away from being in a legitimate conversation about being a dynasty. If they win the 2012 World Series, they will have won back-to-back World Series', the first time anyone will have done it since the 1999-2000 Yankees. Add in that they also won the 2006 World Series, and that's three titles in seven years. Monday could be the first step towards establishing St. Louis as the power team in baseball.

7. You'll have company – Albert Pujols

Albert Pujols traded in his Cardinals gear for Angels red thinking he had a better chance at winning if he went to Los Angeles. Also, they offered him more money. But Pujols and the Angels got off to an awful start and never recovered, missing out on the postseason and forcing Pujols to watch the action from his couch. Meanwhile the team Pujols spurned has a chance to advance to the World Series. Again. Great decision.

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