David Leon Moore, USA TODAY Sports
SAN FRANCISCO - The St. Louis Cardinals, who won the World Series last year, never say die.
The San Francisco Giants, who won the World Series the year before that, never back down.
The St. Louis Cardinals, going back to last postseason, have won five consecutive games in which they would have ended their season if they had lost.
The San Francisco Giants have won five consecutive games in which their season would have ended if they'd lost.
The St. Louis Cardinals have painted themselves into a corner.
The San Francisco Giants have their backs against the wall.
It's baseball, not football, but call this the Karma Bowl, this Game 7 of the NL Championship Series between not one but two teams that can't be killed -- except that Monday night, one of them will be.
So, who's got mo' mojo?
The Giants, who came from 0-2 down and won three straight games against the Cincinnati Reds in an NL Division Series?
Or the Cardinals, who were down to their last strike - twice - in a Game 5 come-from-the-coffin victory against the Washington Nationals in the other NLDS?
This, of course, was a performance the Cardinals had first acted in Game 6 of last year's World Series, when they were down to their last strike - twice - in a preposterous victory over the Texas Rangers that propelled them to a title.
The Cardinals' first elimination game this postseason came in the NL wild card game - at Atlanta.
"We had a tough do-or-die game in Atlanta and came out on top, and after we won that game, I think we started to feel really good about ourselves and get that feeling like we had last year," Cardinals first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig says.
"I think last year's experience in the playoffs, we got a lot of experience, a lot of confidence built. Just going to the World Series and winning the World Series, having to play a Game 7 and come out on top . . . I think you're seeing a lot of us use that experience so far in this postseason."
The Cardinals are doing it this year with a new manager, Mike Matheny having replaced longtime Cardinals boss Tony La Russa after last season. And the new skipper is not surprised his first team has proven to be escape artists.
"I think it's just the kind of people they are," Matheny says. "They believe in themselves. They believe in each other. It's been this style of team all season long. They just don't quit, and I think that just says a lot about their character.
"You can't say enough about the experience they have had in the past, too, where they have had their backs up against the wall and they realize that no matter what is being said out there, no matter how many people count them out, they control their destiny."
But now, destinies collide.
The Giants pretty much sailed to their 2010 championship, beating the Braves 3-1 in the NLDS, the Phillies 4-2 in the NLCS and the Rangers 4-1.
This postseason has been just the opposite. They had to win three straight games to beat the Reds, and they did it. Now they're trying to become only the third team in NLCS history to rally from a 3-1 deficit to advance to the World Series. In MLB playoff history, 11 of 76 teams that went down 3-1 in a best-of-seven series rallied to win the series.
Now, a team whose most dangerous hitter in the series inspires its fans to dress up in furry panda hats will try to make it 12 out of 77.
The key to doing it in an elimination game, says Giants hitting star Pablo "Kung Fu Panda" Sandoval, is to have fun.
"It's just another game," Sandoval said in the giddiness of the Giants' clubhouse after the 6-1 Game 6 victory Sunday night.
No, come on, it's not just another game, someone replied.
"You have to have fun," he said. "We're enjoying the game. When you enjoy it, things go your way."
Or, when things go your way, you enjoy it.
Whatever, the Giants are enjoying it, and things are going their way.
Now they have their ace, Matt Cain, facing the Cardinals' Kyle Lohse.
It is Game 7. The track record says neither of these teams can lose. That's probably not going to happen.
"You go out there and you play like there's no tomorrow," says Giants manager Bruce Bochy. "We've had our backs to the wall. Both teams have, and you're seeing a great series. That's good for baseball, a seventh game."
This time, somebody will be eliminated.
USA TODAY Sports