ST. LOUIS - The Cardinals' clubhouse gave off a familiar scent -- sweat mixed with shampoo mixed with champagne -- residue from a celebration held here just three days ago.
Floor fans sat along a wall nearby, ready for the next time these carpets need to be dried quickly after a deep cleaning.
Yes, these guys have been here before.
But so have the Giants, their opponents in an intriguing National League Championship Series matchup that begins Saturday night when the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright faces the Giants' Madison Bumgarner.
"We're very similar," Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter said. "So it doesn't surprise me that these two teams are where they are. It should be a really good, fun series to see how it all plays out."
In a world of parity, the game still can be ruled by lords such as the Cardinals and Giants. And for the fifth straight season, the NLCS features at least one of the two teams.
Neither has been a stranger to October success. The Giants won the World Series in 2012 -- coming back from a 3-1 NLCS deficit to beat the Cardinals in seven games and outscoring them 20-1 in the final three games -- and 2010. The Cardinals won the 2011 World Series and reached the Fall Classic in 2013, losing to the Red Sox.
Rarely in the history of the game have two teams with so much recent postseason experience run into each other with a pennant on the line. Neither has shown any problems dealing with the spotlight.
Twice, the Cardinals beat probable NL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw in the Division Series, knocking out the Dodgers and their $238-million payroll. Meanwhile, the Giants showed their mettle by outclassing a talented Nationals team that romped to 96 wins in the regular season.
"As weird as it sounds, it's almost more relaxing than the regular season because your goal at the start of the year was to get to the postseason," Giants catcher Buster Posey said. "Like I mentioned earlier, this is a reward. This is a fun time."
For both clubs, core pieces have remained in place: Yadier Molina and Posey; Wainwright and Bumgarner; Matt Holliday and Pablo Sandoval.
But both franchises have incorporated new players into the mix. While some of the names have changed, the results have stayed mostly the same, especially once October has arrived.
"San Francisco is a similar team: it's a championship team, too," first-year Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta said. "They have a lot of experience. They go to the playoffs and they try to win. They have good leaders over there. It's going to be a fun series."