Here are FIVE keys that could lead to a Cardinals win Sunday night and propel the team into a World Series matchup against the Detroit Tigers:

1. Allen Craig and Matt Holliday Need to Come Up Big:

 

 

 

 

 

In the first 5 games of this series, Craig has hit a paltry .125 (2-16) with 1 RBI, and Holliday hasn’t done much more, posting a .190 (4-21) average with 2 RBI. Between the two, they only have 1 TOTAL extra base hit. The other guys have stepped up through the first 5 games of the series, but if Holliday and Craig can get back to their elite form in Game 6, look out Giants!

 

2. Keep The Game Tight Down the Stretch:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cardinals’ bullpen has proven to be unhittable throughout the series, posting a microscopic 2.14 ERA in the first 5 games. If this game is close at the end, it definitely favors the Cardinals, who have the arms in the ‘pen to hold down a tight lead, or post scoreless innings to give the Cards’ bats a chance to take a lead or break a tie. Boggs and Motte have just been lights out in the playoffs. Give me a 3-2 Cardinals lead going into the bottom of the 8th, and I’m feeling pretty good about the Cards’ chances of securing the W.

 

3. Keep Buster Posey in Check:

 

 

 

 

 

With some already calling Posey this year’s NL MVP, Buster has not exactly lived up to his billing in this series. He has hit .167 (3-18) with ZERO extra base hits and 5 strikeouts. He is absolutely due for a break-out game in this series, and Chris Carpenter would be prudent to pitch around Posey who can single-handedly carry this Giant lineup on any given night.

 

4. Make The Simple Plays That Win Games (and Championships):

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know this sounds cliche and obvious, but, as we saw with Lance Lynn‘s errant throw off the second base bag that ignited a 4-run outburst by the Giants in 4th inning of Game 5, those types of simple plays can be the difference between a W and an L. There is always that “moment” in every game where a single play changes the entire complexion of a contest. The Cardinals need to make sure that they are on the right side of that “moment” by being as cerebral as they can be, rather than forcing the issue on plays that are just not there to be made. I am not lobbying for unaggressive play, but in a critical Game 6, with little margin for error, making the “easy” decision is usually the right decision.

 

5. Game 6 is Game 7:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A simple assertion but a necessary one. The Cardinals should want no part of a Game 7 on the road where anything can happen (oh, and Matt Cain would be pitching at home). I know that there is a safety cushion in the Cardinals’ minds in that they can drop Game 6 and still have a chance at winning the series, but it is imperative that the team play Sunday night like it’s do-or-die, play with the desperation that they played with down the stretch of the regular season, down 2-0 in the Wild Card playoff game, and down 6-0 in Game 5 of the NLDS. If the Giants do pull out Game 6, they have reclaimed all the momentum in this series and it would be the Cardinals, ultimately, who would have their backs against the walls, on the road in a pivotal Game 7. Let’s not even see that come to fruition. Against a team the caliber of the Giants, any psychological letdown or complacency on the part of the Cardinals will be assuredly exploited by the Giants. If the Cardinals do play the way I expect them to, this should not be an issue, but definitely something to keep an eye on.

 

For more Cardinals news, notes, and analysis follow Bradley Baskir on Twitter: @BradleyBask1r