The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals will throw their respective aces in Game 1 of the Nation League Division Series on Friday.
Clayton Kershaw is the reigning Cy Young Award winner, a virtual lock to repeat the feat this year and the favorite to win the NL MVP. Adam Wainwright has finished in the Top 3 of Cy Young voting three times and has hardware that Kershaw would trade any amount of personal accolades for: a pair of World Series rings.
So, who holds the advantage in this “Game of Throws?” The answer may seem obvious, but it’s closer than you think.
In 2014, Kershaw and Wainwright finished first and seventh in WAR for pitchers, according to Baseball-Reference. Kershaw also led baseball with a 1.77 ERA, his fourth straight season winning the ERA title — a first in MLB history.
Wainwright finished fifth with a 2.38 mark. The pair finished in the same spots in WHIP, and Kershaw led MLB with six complete games, and Wainwright finished the season with five.
In terms of stuff, both pitch heavily off breaking balls. Kershaw, purely a fastball/curveball pitcher out of high school, developed a slider in 2009 and it has become one of the premier breaking balls in the league.
Wainwright’s go-to offspeed pitch is a cutter, which he threw nearly 30 percent of the time this season. Both also have excellent curveballs to change hitters’ eye levels and rhythms.
How have they stacked up against each other’s teams? Wainwright has a 2.90 career ERA against the Dodgers in 14 starts. The last time he faced the Dodgers, the right-hander was a tough-luck loser after throwing eight innings of one-run ball. Last year, in the NLCS, Wainwright took another tough loss, giving up just two runs in seven innings.
As for Kershaw, the last time he faced the Cardinals in the postseason, they walked all over him to the tune of seven runs in less than five innings. However, facing St Louis twice this year, he allowed just three runs in 14 innings with 21 strikeouts.
Oddly, the Cardinals’ hitters who give him the most problems are the likes of Pete Kozma, Peter Bourjos and Daniel Descalso, who are a combined 10-for-20 against him.
So, who wins this matchup? It’s difficult to say. Wainwright has pitched very well against the Dodgers over the course of his career, though his ERA at Dodger Stadium is 4.30. Kershaw would love nothing more than to get revenge for his Game 6 loss in the 2013 NLCS.
While the outcome may be too close to call, expect a pitcher’s duel.