Friday, October 11, 2013

Dodgers' balanced attack could spoil Cardinals' run

National League Championship Series Preview

Los Angeles Dodgers versus St. Louis Cardinals

Both teams handled their business in the division series though the Dodgers had a much easier time against the Atlanta Braves. The Cardinals went the distance against a very formidable Pittsburgh Pirates team. The Dodgers won the regular season series with the Cardinals four games to three. Below is a quick breakdown of the series as I see it.

Probables
Game 1 – Zack Greinke vs. Joe Kelly
Game 2 – Clayton Kershaw vs. Michael Wacha
Game 3 – TBA vs. Adam Wainwright
Game 4 – TBA vs. TBA

Offense

The Dodgers were led by Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig in the NLDS victory over the Braves. This of course was not much of a surprise as both players carried the club through the latter half of the regular season. The Dodgers will want to back Greinke in Game 1 and try to wrest home field advantage away from the Cardinals. They’ll hope to take advantage of the pitching matchup against Kelly, easily the weakest of the Cardinals first three starters lined up.

The Cardinals need to get Matt Carpenter going so that Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina have someone on base to drive in. Carpenter had just one hit in the NLDS against the Pirates. The Cardinals as a team will also have to improve on their recent performance in the NLDS with runners in scoring position (5-for-27). The club hit an amazing .330 in such situations during the regular season. Even if they meet halfway between these extremes the Cardinals give themselves a great chance.

Pitching

The Dodgers have the household names in Kershaw and Greinke, while Wainwright is the hands down ace of the Redbirds. Ricky Nolasco and Hyun-Jin Ryu will need to step up for the Dodgers when given the opportunity, while Kelly and Wacha will need to do the same for the Cards. Wacha is red-hot, flirting with no-hitters in his last two starts, the last coming in the division series.

The Cardinals tout an effective bullpen with newly appointed closer Trevor Rosenthal at the end, where the Dodgers are riding experienced arms in Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen to close out victories. The Cardinals have modestly better arms in middle relief.

Managers

Both clubs have skippers who had no prior managerial experience before being hired (I’m not counting Dodger manager Don Mattingly's quick Arizona Fall League tour). But, each played in the big leagues and has had success early in their managing careers.

Mattingly was given a very talented club and high-salaried club and kept things on an even keel when it looked as though the season was lost in late June. He has not had to make many earth shattering decisions, but he also hasn't screwed anything up along the way.

Mike Matheny, a former catcher, has the Cardinals in the NLCS for the third straight time, the second of his two-year managerial career. Matheny likes to try and generate runs with small ball tactics and has a very good grasp of managing the pitching staff.

Prediction

Two clubs coming from different directions, but landing in a spot many predicted at the beginning of the season. Each team has a storied history and there are no glaring areas of domination for either team. The series will be close throughout, but I think the Dodgers have a bit more balance on both sides of the ball right now. Dodgers in six.

NLCS logo courtesy of sportslogos.net

No comments:

Post a Comment