Cardinals-Dodgers Division Series Preview
The St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers are familiar with each other when it comes to October baseball. They met last year in the National League Championship Series and they met in the Division Series round in 2009 and 2004. They meet for the fourth time in the past eleven years starting later this afternoon, and here’s a few thoughts on the latest installment of the Cardinals-Dodgers Division Series.
Los Angeles is the team best suited, on paper to win this series. They have a superior offense, and they have a 1-2 starting pitching punch of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Offensively, Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig break superb all-around games, and a healthy Matt Kemp isn’t far behind. Adrian Gonzalez is a great run-producer, with 116 RBIs, while Juan Uribe and Carl Crawford are respectable at getting on base.
It’s not that the Dodgers’ lineup is Murderers’ Row, but it’s a very steady diet of good players that never gives an opposing pitcher a break.
Los Angeles rotation is top-heavy, especially with #3 starter Hyun-Jin Ru still questionable for Game 3. But if you’re going to be top-heavy, Kershaw and Greinke are the pitchers do it with. In a full five-game series, they would start three, and potentially four of the games. Los Angeles doesn’t need to win behind any other pitcher.
That’s the case for the Dodgers, it’s a compelling one, and it’s why they’re a (-195) betting favorite to advance. But St. Louis has its own case to make.
The Cardinals’ offensive production isn’t up to par with the Dodgers—and the disparity gets even worse if you consider that Busch Stadium is a lot easier to hit in than Dodger Stadium. But that’s because of an off-year from Yadier Molina, who either struggled at the plate or was hurt. Matt Holliday took a long time to get started. Matt Carpenter never got going driving the ball into the alleys.
But all of those players have track records that tell you they can play at a much higher level going forward, be it in these playoffs or next season. Add to that, Jhonny Peralta hit 21 home runs and Matt Adams is capable of a power surge.
And the Cardinals have their own ace who can match up with Kershaw, that being Adam Wainwright. I have my doubts about #2 starter Lance Lynn, at least in any big situation, but there are no such doubts about #3 starter John Lackey.
If St. Louis can win behind Lackey, they could certainly expect to get a split of two Wainwright starts. Then it’s about winning with Shelby Miller in Game 4, who would face either Kershaw on short rest or Robert Hernandez. Perhaps more important, the Cardinals could shift the focus away from the starters and into a battle of the bullpens.
The St. Louis bullpen is longer and more reliable than its Los Angeles counterpart. The Cardinals also get a big addition to that pen—Michael Wacha, the MVP of last year’s NLCS, will go from the rotation to the pen for this series. Wacha missed a lot of time with shoulder problems this year, but he was effective when he was healthy—a 3.20 ERA. That’s a big X-factor coming out the pen that the Dodgers don’t have.
I’m picking the Cardinals to win this series. That’s mostly due to the fact that I picked them to win the World Series at the start of the year, and I’m going to ride it as long as possible. And there’s no team whose October pedigree I respect more than that of St. Louis.