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Cardinals vs. Giants in NLCS: What history tells us

The St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants have played in more World Series since 2000 than any other National League franchises.

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San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, upper left, high fives third baseman Pablo Sandoval as pitcher Santiago Casilla, left, second baseman Joe Panik (12), shortstop Brandon Crawford (35) and teammates celebrate after the Giants beat Washington Nationals in Game 4 of baseball's NL Division Series in San Francisco, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014.

Jeff Chiu/AP

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Going back to the beginnings of modern Major League Baseball, circa 1901, the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals have been championship contenders across multiple decades.

St. Louis has 11 World Series titles, while the New York and San Francisco versions of the Giants have combined for 7 baseball championships.

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Starting Saturday night, the teams will meet for the fourth time in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series (NLCS).

Prior to this year, the last three times the Giants have reached the NLCS, they've gone on to the World Series. San Francisco has won the last two NL championship series in which they played St. Louis – 2002 and 2012.

The two teams have combined to win three of the last four World Series played – the Giants in 2010 and 2012, and the Cardinals in 2011. St. Louis lost to the improbable Boston Red Sox in the 2013 World Series.

As for this year's matchup, the Cardinals feature two of the top five National League postseason hitters. Center fielder John Jay is hitting .455. Third baseman Matt Carpenter is hitting .375 with three home runs and seven runs batted in.

The Giants are led by catcher Buster Posey's .391 batting average and solid handling of the pitching staff. The right side of the San Francisco infield, second baseman Brandon Crawford and first baseman Brandon Belt, have each driven in five runs during this year's postseason.

Each team has dependable pitching – Adam Wainwright, a 20-game winner for the Cardinals this year, is scheduled to start Game 1 Saturday night for St. Louis. Lance Lynn and John Lackey, who came over to the Cards in the July 31 trade with the Red Sox, should also take the mound during the NLCS. Also, rookie lefthander Marco Gonzales has two wins in relief for St. Louis this postseason.

Madison Bumgarner, who won 18 games for San Francisco in 2014, was terrific in a nine-inning, complete game victory for the Giants over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NL wildcard playoff game back on October 1. Tim Hudson is a veteran pitcher with playoff experience who's spent time with the Atlanta Braves and Oakland Athletics. The Giants staff also features former NL Cy Young winners Jake Peavy, who got the win in Game 1 of the NL division series against Washington, and Tim Lincecum (12-9 in 2014)

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In two closely matched teams, who has the edge? Grantland writer Jonah Keri indicates that the health of Cards pitcher Wainwright could be the swing factor. 

Honestly, if Wainwright were 100 percent rather than the guy with a gimpy elbow coming off a six-run drubbing against the Dodgers, this would more or less come down to a coin flip.

But Wainwright’s questionable status tilts the series in San Francisco’s favor. In a battle between two of baseball’s model franchises, I’m saying Giants in six.

Bleacher Report MLB National Columnist Scott Miller leans toward the Giants too: Offensively, Giants were fifth in National League in runs scored, the Cards were ninth. "Giants top to bottom ... are tough beat."

You can watch Game 1 of the National League Championship Series between the Giants and Cardinals Saturday night on Fox, beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern time.