NLCS Preview: Dodgers vs Cardinals
#3 Los Angeles Dodgers vs #1 St. Louis Cardinals
National League Championship Series
All games on TBS
Game 1: LAD @ Stl ; Friday, October 11th, 8:30 PM EST
Game 2: LAD @ Stl ; Saturday, October 12th, 4:00 PM EST
Game 3: Stl @ LAD; Monday, October 14th, 8:00 PM EST
Game 4: Stl @ LAD; Tuesday, October 15th, 8:00 PM EST
(If Necessary) Game 5: Stl @ LAD; Wednesday, October 16th, 4:00 PM EST
(If Necessary) Game 6: LAD @ Stl; Friday, October 18th, 8:30 PM EST
(If Necessary) Game 7: LAD @ Stl; Saturday, October 19th, 8:30 PM EST
St. Louis Cardinals:
How They Got Here: The Pittsburgh Pirates took a 2-1 lead in this year's NLDS before the Cardinals took command of the series and won it in five. The Cardinals have home field advantage in this series. This is the Cardinals third straight trip to the NLCS.
Strengths: The starting pitching is the main reason why the Cardinals moved on to this year's NLCS. Michael Wacha and Adam Wainwright were fantastic in Games 4 and 5 only giving up a combined two runs in 16.1 innings pitched. Carlos Beltran is arguably the greatest postseason hitter of all-time and he's yet to play a single game in the World Series. The Cardinals have a great long-relief and spot start option in Shelby Miller if they need him. While the offense has struggled so far with runners in scoring position in October, this Cardinals team put up the highest batting average with RISP in MLB history in the regular season. The Cardinals have much more playoff experience than the Dodgers and seem to be able to handle pressure situations very well. The Red Bird's fielding has looked fantastic so far this postseason. There are no breaks in this lineup aside from the pitcher, so you need to bring your A-game for all eight hitters.
Weaknesses: While Matt Adams did have a towering homerun in game 5, the Red Birds miss Allen Craig badly. Craig led all of baseball with a .454 batting average with runners in scoring position. While Michael Wacha flourished in his first postseason start, Joe Kelly did not fair as well. Lance Lynn has not been very good in the postseason the last two years and may be a bad start away from being removed from the rotation. The St. Louis bullpen has some explosive young arms in Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez but they do not have great command. The Cardinals bench does not have an offensive weapon that would scare you as a pinch hitter.
Keys to victory: The Cardinals must get their young pitchers to pitch deep into games, into atleast the 6th inning. The Dodgers offense has been good lately but if you keep them off balanced at the plate, they can be impatient. Take advantage of the games vs the other Dodger Starting Pitchers not named Clayton Kershaw. Put the ball in play and make this shaky defensive team field their position. A dreadful day in the field almost cost the Dodgers game 4 in the NLDS. Get back to getting a hit almost every time a runner is in scoring position.
Los Angeles Dodgers:
How They Got Here: For the first time since 2009, the Los Angeles Dodgers are in the National League Championship Series. The Dodgers will look to make the World Series for the first time since 1988. A dramatic 8th inning two-run homer by Juan Uribe gave the Dodgers the lead for good, as they beat the Atlanta Braves in four games.
Strengths: Clayton Kershaw on three days rest didn't look any different than Clayton Kershaw on normal rest. The best pitcher in the game hasn't had a bad outing in what seems like five years. However, it'll be a tough task facing the very smart Cardinals lineup. Hanley Ramirez finally looks like he's returned to the form that made him an MVP candidate in 2009. Adrian Gonzalez also looks locked in at the plate and can take advantage of the all-righty Cardinals starting rotation. Andre Either may be able to return to the starting lineup in time for game 1 of this series. You better not let the Dodgers have the lead going into the 9th because Kenley Jansen's fastball is almost un-hittable.
Weaknesses: The defense did not look great in the NLDS vs the Braves and they won't be able to get away with those mental mistakes vs St. Louis. The other starters not named Kershaw did not look very sharp and will need to pitch much better vs a much better lineup. Don Mattingly makes some bone-headed managerial mistakes that will leave you scratching your head for days to come. This lineup is very prone to striking out and will struggle if they aren't patient at the plate.
Keys to victory: Win all of Kershaw's starts at all costs. Play smart fundamental baseball both on the bases and in the field. Don't help out the Cardinals' pitchers and have a patient approach at the plate. Get runners on base infront of Hanley and A-Gon. Take advantage of the young starting pitching of the Cardinals and knock them out of the game early. If there are any runners on base, you'd be very foolish to give Beltran anything good to hit. Get Kenley Jansen the ball with a lead in the 9th.
First And Ten Staff Picks:
Seth Guttman: Cardinals in 6. “The Cardinals are a more experienced and disciplined team than the Dodgers. Adam Wainwright may be the only pitcher in baseball who can challenge Clayton Kershaw pitch for pitch. The Cardinals offense will be too much for the rest of the Dodgers pitching staff and there will be a repeat of the 1968 and 2006 World Series between the Cardinals and Tigers.”
Chris Marcotrigiano: Cardinals in 7. “Both teams are blessed with superior offenses and solid pitching staffs. But St. Louis has one thing that this LA team doesn't have: a winning pedigree. That plus home field advantage should push them over the top.”
Harris Yudin: Dodgers in 6. “If no one goes on three days rest, Greinke and Kershaw could be going up against Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha twice each, respectively. I find it hard to believe the young Cards could keep up with those veterans in the playoffs. I want to say it's a push in the bullpen and offensively, so starting pitching will determine the series.”
Anthony Tartamella: Dodgers in 7. “The Dodgers' pitching is good enough to beat this Cardinals lineup. If this deadly lineup is playing it's best, they will be golden.”