St. Louis Cardinals (91-71) at
Los Angeles Dodgers (95-67)
About four months ago, when LA held about a 15-game lead in the NL West, my only Dodgers’ fan friend asked me to assess their playoff chances. My response? “Who’s your Game 1 starter? Exactly. What you did to the Cubs last year will happen to you.” The Dodgers are built for the regular season with a deep lineup and egalitarian rotation. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have played tremendously since acquiring Matt Holliday in July, have the league’s two best pitchers in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, and the best hitter of the last four decades in Albert Pujols. St. Louis has been better than Los Angeles for some time, and that will be borne out rather quickly, I think, in this series.
The Dodgers’ lineup, like their pitching staff, is deep but not highlighted by any one star. And that includes Manny Ramirez, who has hit .290 with a pedestrian 19 home runs. Guys like Andre Ethier, James Loney, and Matt Kemp are dangerous but unproven, and I wouldn’t feel particularly comfortable counting on them. Russell Martin has had, by all accounts, a horrendous season. There’s very little difference between the Dodgers’ fifth hitter and their eighth hitter, which is both a good and bad thing.
The Cardinals have Albert Pujols. (Fine, some more: Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa give the lineup more depth than it had when Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel, and Colby Rasmus were protecting Pujols. Obvs. And Tony LaRussa stopped batting his pitcher eighth in late July. Sigh.)