San Francisco Giants

Giants’ Posey, Cardinals’ Molina lead teams into NLCS

A tarp covers the infield in Busch Stadium, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014, in St. Louis. The St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants are scheduled to start the NL Championship Series on Saturday in St. Louis.
A tarp covers the infield in Busch Stadium, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014, in St. Louis. The St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants are scheduled to start the NL Championship Series on Saturday in St. Louis. AP

ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals third baseman Matt Carpenter said Friday he could go "on and on" about the similarities between the Cardinals and Giants, starting with the importance of their respective catchers.

On Yadier Molina: "He’s the backbone of this clubhouse. He’s one of the guys that’s pretty hard to replace. I’m sure everybody in the room would like to feel like their role is irreplaceable, but he might be the one guy that that really, truly hits home with. If you lose a guy like him, the whole dynamic of this team changes."

Told the Giants might say the same about Buster Posey: "Absolutely … Buster Posey, he kind of makes that whole thing work, just like Yadi does for us. So two really good teams matched up really well."

This was a popular storyline when these teams met in the NLCS two years ago, and it has been again leading up to tonight’s Game 1: This series features two of the best all-around catchers in baseball.

Molina has finished in the top four of MVP voting each of the past two seasons. St. Louis experienced life without him this season, as he missed significant time with a thumb injury. That made for a bit of a down year offensively, as Molina in 110 games batted .282 with seven home runs and 38 RBIs.

Still, Molina’s impact extends far beyond that. He’s widely considered the best defensive catcher in the game and threw out 48 percent of base-stealers this season, best in MLB.

Posey, meanwhile, warded off a second-half slump to finish with a .311 average in 147 games, 22 homers and 89 RBIs. After the Giants’ NLDS win over the Nationals, Giants pitchers raved about Posey’s pitch-calling during the series, and his ability to adjust to different pitchers’ styles and still attack the Washington hitters in effective ways.

Molina on Friday recalled talking with older brother Bengie, the former Giants catcher, about Posey when Posey first joined the Giants.

"He said (Posey’s) got some good talent, he’s going to be one of the stars of the future," Molina said. "And he wasn’t wrong."

At this point, Molina said, Posey is: "One of the best. One of the best in the league, in the world. This kid can do it all, can catch, can swing the bat. He’s got my respect."

Posey returned it, saying of Molina:

"He’s a good one to watch … Yadi’s a great player. He’s very good defensively, comes up with timely hitting and has been really good for a long time."

It’s one similarity that will be on display when the series gets underway this evening in St. Louis. Here are the starting lineups, first for the Giants against Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright:

CF Blanco

2B Panik

C Posey

3B Sandoval

RF Pence

1B Belt

SS Crawford

LF Ishikawa

P Bumgarner

And for the Cardinals against Madison Bumgarner:

3B Carpenter

RF Grichuk

LF Holliday

SS Peralta

1B Adams

C Molina

CF Jay

2B Wong

P Wainwright

Call The Bee’s Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. See his baseball coverage at sacbee.com/mlb. Follow him on Twitter at @matthewkawahara.

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