With the Dodgers having already clinched a spot in the National League Championship Series on Friday, they now await the winner of Game 5 between the Cardinals and the Pirates. The Cardinals still pose a greater threat to the Dodgers then the Pirates, as they have a crop of young pitchers that can deliver in big games.
Yes, the Dodgers have the best 1-2 combo in the game in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, but the rest of the rotation is shaky at best. Hyun-jin Ryu didn’t last past the third inning in the game three victory, while Ricky Nolasco hasn’t started since the end of September.
Kershaw pitched strong two games in the NLDS versus the Braves, allowing one run with 12 strikeouts for the win in Game 1 while allowing just three hits and two unearned runs on three days rest in Game 4. Look for Kershaw to do more of the same with the Cardinals lineup as he simply is the best pitcher in the game today. Against the Cardinals this season, Kershaw is 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA and faced them back in the 2009 NLDS.
Greinke didn’t do so bad either in picking up the Game 2 loss as he pitched six innings, allowing just two runs on four hits and striking out three before being pulled for Chris Withrow and subsequently earning the loss in the pitcher’s duel. Look for Greinke to get the ball in Game 1 and dominate as he will be well rested. This season Greinke picked up a win in his only start against the Cardinals back on August 5.
St. Louis will counter with Adam Wainwright, rookie Michael Wacha and Lance Lynn. Wainwright will start tonight’s Game 5 against the Pirates so the Dodgers won’t see him until Game 3 of the series. He was 0-1 against the Dodgers this season, but in his career, he’s 1-2 with a 5.16 ERA at Dodger Stadium.
The ace of the Cardinals staff, Wainwright throws all his pitches effectively, so he might cause some confusion for the Dodger hitters and e has big game experience.
Wacha has just been straight up dominant in his last couple of starts. In the last game of the season he took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, only to lose it with two outs on an infield single. Then in Game 4 of the NLDS versus the Pirates, Wacha took a no-hitter into the eighth inning, only to lose it with one out on a home run by Pedro Alvarez.
Lynn is the wild card in the bunch as he was solid for the Cards in the season with a 14-10 record, but had issues through August and down the stretch. Lynn faltered miserably in his Game 2 start versus the Pirates as he gave up five runs and three walks in 4.1 innings in the 7-1 loss.
The Dodgers’ Carl Crawford has had the most success against the Cards, going 13-27 with six runs and four doubles this seasons. Now in the playoffs, Crawford has been carrying the Dodgers along with Hanley Ramirez, hittiing .353 with three HRs and five RBIs. Look for Crawford to be as effective against the Cards as he was against the Braves.
Ramirez didn’t get much action versus the Cards this year, but has been the catalyst that the Dodgers’ machine runs on and it hasn’t been any different in the postseason. Ramirez is hitting .500 with six RBIs, one HR, one triple and four doubles. Ramirez, when healthy, looks to be the Hanley of old when he was putting up incredible numbers in Florida and will continue to power the Dodgers’ offense.
The Cardinals offense on the other hand, has been relatively quiet of late as Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran have been their driving force in the playoffs.
Molina, the best catcher in the major leagues, has had an MVP caliber season for the Red Birds he hit .319 with 12 HRs and 80 RBIs, while maintaining their strong pitching staff. Look for Molina to not only help on the offensive side but carry the pitching staff.
Now Beltran often looks his age in the regular season, but come October, he becomes this era’s Mr. October and has been no different this postseason. After hitting .296 with 24 HRs and 84 RBIs during the regular season, Beltran is now batting .286 with two HRs, one double and six RBIs in the postseason.
In his playoff career, Beltran is hitting .355 with 16 HRs and 31 RBIs as he just locks in come October. Beltran will have to carry the Cards’ offense if they have any chance to get past the Dodgers pitching.
So what do you think, would you want to face off against the Cardinals in the NLCS?
In case you missed it, here’s the home run that sent the Dodgers to the NLCS!