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MLB San Francisco GiantsSt Louis Cardinals

San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals is the Best Rivalry in the NL

Oscar Taveras St. Louis Cardinals

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Over the course of the past 28 years, no rivalry in the National League has been more prevalent than the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals. During that time period, these two NL powerhouses have combined to win nine pennants and four World Series titles. They’ve directly clashed in the NLCS on three occasions (1987, 2002, 2012). Two of those series reached seven games.

San Francisco’s road to glory so often runs through the almighty Cardinals, who have already witnessed their title hopes dissolve at the hands of the Giants on two occasions during this century. This season figures to be no different. The Cardinals and Giants are arguably the two best teams in the league at the moment, and could be on a direct collision course for another grind-it-out series in the 2014 MLB Playoffs.

At the moment, the Giants are a beat-up ball club. The NL West standings don’t indicate that San Francisco has suffered as a result. They began the day with a lofty 7.5-game lead over archrival Los Angeles Dodgers, the biggest lead among all division leaders.

The Giants (36-20) are on pace to win a whopping 106 games, despite injuries to key contributors like Brandon Belt, Matt Cain, Marco Scutaro and Santiago Casilla. Not to mention 2012 MVP Buster Posey, who hasn’t seen the field during this series due to a nagging lower-back ailment. Somehow, San Francisco keeps trekking along. Their seeming lack of bench depth hasn’t been an issue.

The Cardinals aren’t slotted atop the NL Central but remain a formidable opponent. St. Louis (30-26) had run full speed into the buzzsaw, otherwise known as the Giants, until finally notching a win against their unofficial rival on Saturday afternoon. The surprisingly talented Milwaukee Brewers weren’t complaining about the Giants taking the first two games of the series as their division lead had previously ballooned to four games.

The Giants’ early series dominance over St. Louis added fuel to the fire, forcing the Cardinals to rely on potential superstar Oscar Taveras, who launched his first big-league home run in his second official at-bat, to propel the squad to a much-needed win. The Brewers deserve respect, but their relative inexperience makes them an underdog in the NL Central. The Cardinals’ vaunted pitching staff is capable of carrying them through the summer and into October, a feat so often accomplished in St. Louis.

For whatever reason, it flat out feels like the playoffs whenever the Giants and Cardinals square-up against one another. It could be the fact that AT&T Park and Busch Stadium are always jam-packed, regardless of who occupies the visitor’s dugout. After all, the franchises flaunt two of the most dedicated fanbases in all of baseball.

Or, perhaps it’s the history. From John Tudor out-dueling Dave Dravecky in Game 6 of the ’87 NLCS to J.T. Snow swooping Dusty Baker‘s son at the plate in Game 5 of their ’02 showdown to Scutaro raising his arms in triumph during an absolute downpour in Game 7 of the ’12 NLCS, the rivalry between the Giants and Cardinals digs deep. Baseball is simply more fun when both teams are at each other’s throats with the National League pennant on the line.

John Shea is an MLB writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @cutthroatpicks. “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.