Why the Dodgers will win
The Dodgers right now are the team with momentum. They brutalized the Braves, dominating with both hitting and pitching. And coming into this series they have a lot going for them.
First off they have their rotation set up well for this series. While the Cardinals will have to rely on youth to carry them through the first two games of the NLCS, the Dodgers are going to be leading off with Zack Grienke in Game 1 and Clayton Kershaw in Game 2.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy. Joe Kelly is a good pitcher, and Michael Wacha has been just about impossible to hit over his last two starts. Still they are both young and have limited experience in high pressure games and, let’s face it, neither of them are are Greinke or Kershaw, though they could be comparable in a few years if all goes right.
But for now, while the Dodgers don’t have the home field advantage, they do have the pitching advantage early in the series. They also face a Cardinals team missing its most potent bat in Allen Craig, who looks to be out for the entire series,
That’s good, because if it comes down to being a slugfest the Dodgers should have the advantage. The have much more home run power as a team and have been unbelievably hot offensively in the first round, scoring 26 runs and hitting seven home runs in a four-game span.
If they can carry that over they have a good chance of roughing up the Cardinals in the first two games and having a 2-0 series lead before they face Adam Wainwright. But even if they only get one of the first two, they essentially will regain home field advantage, and at home the Dodgers looked pretty much unbeatable in the first round.
Why the Cardinals will win
Been here, done that. The Cardinals are a well seasoned team of veterans who know all about the playoffs. The core offensive players have all done this before. The young pitchers by in large have experienced at least a touch of playoff pressure before, be it a handful of innings back in 2012 or in the case of Michael Wacha playing playoff baseball in college.
That means that maybe the Dodgers and the oddsmakers are underestimating guys like Joe Kelly, Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller. Wacha has certainly pitched like a full-blown ace his last two starts. In fact, his last two starts, he would have beaten any ace anywhere in the game. If he can keep that mentality Clayton Kershaw isn’t a guy who’ll stand in his way.
And a lot will rest on his shoulders, and those of Joe Kelly who has been brilliant in his second season going 10-5 with a 2.69 ERA. That’s very comparable to what Zack Greinke did this season (15-4 with a 2.63 ERA). But Greinke did it pitching half his games in one of the most pitching friendly ballparks in all the majors.
That said, the Dodgers won’t be starting this series at home, but in Cardinal-friendly St. Louis and Busch Stadium could easily be an extra man on the field for the Cardinals in the opening stanzas.
But the Cardinals' hopes don’t all rest on Wacha and Kelly. The offense is a potent thing filled not with power hitters, but with guys who play as a team and know how to play station to station baseball. This is the team that executed best with men in scoring position all season. Yes, they’ll miss Allen Craig, unless the Cards are playing with a little disinformation, but Yadier Molina, Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Matt Carpenter, John Jay and David Freese are still nothing to sneeze at.
If the Cardinals can continue to be “clutch” and the pitching holds up, they can definitely win this series.
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