Scouting the NLCS: Cardinals vs. Dodgers

Posted Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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This has the makings of what should be a classic series between two storied franchises. The Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals have a combined 17 World Series championships and are looking to add another one.

The Cardinals, somehow, continue to be in the hunt year after year. It’s been a remarkable run, overcoming the losses in recent years of personnel such as Albert Pujols and manager Tony La Russa.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, are back to being perennial contenders and seeking their first World Series appearance since winning it all in 1988. They’ve gotten here by opening up their wallets and stacking their rotation with elite starters.

What’s working for the Cardinals: Yadier Molina continues to show why he’s the best catcher in the game. Matt Holliday came through with a clutch homer in the division series, and Carlos Beltran went deep twice. The rotation has also risen to the occasion so far, especially Texas A&M product Michael Wacha, who threw 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball in Game 4 of the division series. The bullpen is also deep with closer Trevor Rosenthal, Edward Mujica and John Axford.

Cause for concern: Ace Adam Wainwright isn’t available until Game 3, which leaves the Cardinals going with youngsters Joe Kelly and Wacha in Games 1 and 2. So far, though, the pitchers have stepped up and the real question mark has been the offense. TCU product and leadoff man Matt Carpenter had a disappointing NLDS, batting only .053 (1 for 19). Jon Jay and David Freese also struggled at the plate in the NLDS.

What’s working for the Dodgers: The pitching staff features one of the best, if not the best, pitchers in the game in Clayton Kershaw. Zack Greinke is also a former Cy Young winner, and those two are expected to start Games 1 and 2 and be able to pitch twice in the series on normal rest. The bullpen has also been able to lock down games with Kenley Jansen and Brian Wilson at the back of it. Hanley Ramirez is a difference-maker at shortstop and is coming off an impressive NLDS. Juan Uribe and Yasiel Puig are also getting hot at the right time, and the bench is deep.

Cause for concern: Hyun-Jin Ryu had a poor outing in Game 3 of the NLDS, which led to speculation about his health. Ryu and the Dodgers say it’s nothing noteworthy, although allowing four runs on six hits over three innings in his postseason debut is a cause for concern. There is still a question as to Andre Ethier’s status, but it appears he is good enough to start. Still, he went 0 for 3 with a walk in his four NLDS at-bats.

Prediction: As stated, this appears to have the makings of one of the better series in recent memory. But October tends to come down to pitching, and the Dodgers have the slight edge in that department. The Dodgers won the season series 4-3 and will do the same in the NLCS.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @drewdavison

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