Two of Major League Baseball’s oldest and most storied franchises meet up again in the NLDS. The Cardinals and Dodgers last met in the playoffs in 2004, when St. Louis took the NLDS in four games and eventually advanced to the World Series. Prior to that, you have to go back to 1988 for the last matchup between the teams, a classic that involved Ozzie Smith’s walk-off home run in Game 5 and Jack Clark’s game-winning dinger in Game 6 that sent the Cards to the World Series. The Cardinals also held the advantage in the season series, winning five of seven games.
The Cardinals win if: Their one-two punch of Chris Carpenter (17-4, 2.24 ERA) and Adam Wainwright (19-8, 2.63 ERA) continue pitching like the Cy Young candidates that they are. Carpenter will take the rubber in Game 1 with Wainwright pitching Game 2. Given the schedule, Carpenter could potentially pitch Game 4 on three days rest. If not, both would be available for Game 5. Their one-two punch in the middle of their line-up of Albert Pujols (.327, 47 HR, 135 RBI) and Matt Holliday (.313, 24 HR, 109 RBI) should be able to produce enough runs to win the series against the Dodgers inferior pitching as long as Carpenter and Wainwright continue to do what they have been doing all year.
The Dodgers win if: They can hit the Cardinals starting pitching. They have the young stars ready to be recognized nationally by performing in the post-season with Matt Kemp (.272, 31 HR, 106 RBI), Andre Ethier (.297, 26 HR, 101 RBI), and James Loney (.281, 13 HR, 90 RBI). And they of course have future Hall of Famer Many Ramirez (.290, 19 HR, 63 RBI). But Manny, along with much of the Dodger line-up, has been struggling as of late. But if things begin to start clicking and they all play to their potential, they can win this series.
The X-factor: Dodger starting pitching. Starters Randy Wolf (11-7, 3.23 ERA) and Clayton Kershaw (8-8, 2.79 ERA) will be up against Carpenter and Wainwright, respectively. They need to be able to keep the Dodgers in the game for them to have any shot at winning this series.
The verdict: Cardinals in 4. Since July 22, when Manny came back from his 50-game suspension, the Dodgers are just 34-33. The Cardinals, on the other hand, are 40-25. They have better starting pitching and a line-up that is not struggling in the second half of the season. All signs point to a Cardinals win.
-Brad Allen ’13