On Friday at 3:37 PM PT the Los Angeles Dodgers will take on the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLDS.
The Dodgers won the NL West and the Cardinals were the NL Central champions, and both head into the postseason with World Series aspirations. As the day draws nearer, we continue to preview the series by breaking down categories.
Today, we take a look at the starting pitchers and bullpen for each team before deciding who has the advantage.
Ranking fourth in the NL in overall ERA, the Dodgers were led by a starting rotation that ranked second with a 3.20 ERA. Their bullpen dealt with inconsistency issues to the tune of a 3.80 ERA. For the Cardinals, their overall ERA ranked eighth in the NL at 3.50. They also had a better ERA from their starters (3.44) than their bullpen (3.62).
The Dodgers have the luxury of trotting out the game’s best pitcher every four games in Clayton Kershaw. The projected NL Cy Young and potential MVP once again led the league in ERA for the fourth straight year. He also led in wins, WHIP, ERA+. and FIP. Kershaw will be looking to avenge his disastrous start in Game 6 of the NLCS last year. The left-hander is 5-5 in 14 career starts against the Cardinals, but went 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two starts against them this year.
Behind Kershaw is Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Greinke quietly enjoyed one of his best seasons, going 17-8 with a 2.71 ERA. He combines with Kershaw to form one of the top duos at the top of any rotation. Greinke has enjoyed some success against the NL Central champions in his career, going 9-4 over 14 games in his career. He went 1-1 with a 3.55 ERA in two starts against them this season.
Hyun-Jin Ryu hasn’t pitched in a couple weeks due to injury; however, he is slated to start the third game of the series. A healthy and effective Ryu will be the biggest factor for how far the Dodgers can go. This season the left-hander went 14-7 with a 3.38 ERA and many might remember the seven shutout innings he threw against the Cardinals in Game 3 of the NLCS last year.
The final piece to the Dodgers postseason rotation is right-hander Dan Haren, who had an up-and-down season. Haren finished the season at 13-11 with a 4.02 ERA, including 5-2 with a 2.43 ERA in his final 10 starts. The right-hander struggled in his only start against the Cardinals this season, giving up eight hits and three runs in 4.2 innings, but that was back in July. If Haren can pitch like he did during the stretch run, then the Dodgers will be in good position.
Opposing Kershaw in Game 1 will be the Cardinals’ ace, Adam Wainwright. The right-hander was chosen as the All-Star Game starter over Kershaw and finished the season at 20-9 with a 2.38 ERA. Despite a 2.90 ERA against the Dodgers, Wainwright is just 4-5 overall, including a loss this season in which he gave up one run in eight innings. Wainwright has the ability to shut down the Dodger offense, but he must also outduel Kershaw.
The Cardinals will go to Lance Lynn after their ace. The right-hander finished 15-10 with a 2.74 ERA and led the Cardinals in games started. He owns a 3-1 record and a 4.50 ERA against the Dodgers in his career. He went 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA in two starts against them this season.
Mike Matheny decided to go with John Lackey in Game 3. Lackey was acquired from the Red Sox and is known as a postseason pitcher. Since the trade, the right-hander was 3-3 with a 4.30 ERA. He did not start against the Dodgers this season, but has had success against them in his career.
Shelby Miller will get the ball if another game is necessary. He finished 10-9 with a 3.74 ERA this year. He owns a 6.57 ERA against Los Angeles in his career. Miller was removed after one inning from one start against the Dodgers due to injury, and allowed six runs in five innings in his other start against Los Angeles.
Advantage: Push (Both teams have some questions marks in the starting rotation. While Kershaw and Greinke are the better duo at the top, the Cardinals have more depth and postseason experience. It will depend on who has the hotter hand once the bright lights are on.)
Next Page: Which Bullpen Has The Advantage?