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MLB Postseason Preview: Braves vs. Giants

Atlanta Braves (91-71) at

San Francisco Giants (92-70)

OVERVIEW

The Braves and Giants each snuck their way into the playoffs on the final day of the regular season after almost blowing it by dropping the first two games of weekend series. The last time so much was on the line on the season’s last day for both of them was, of course, 1993, when Atlanta and San Francisco entered the day tied for the NL West lead with 103 wins. Braves won, Giants lost, and a 103-59 team went home before the postseason. The Wild Card was introduced the next year. Wouldn’t it be kind of ironic, then, if the Wild Card Braves beat the NL West-winning Giants? (Let’s overlook the Wild Card Giants beating the division-winning Braves in a five-game NLDS in 2002 to retain the gravity of that question.)

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MLB Postseason Preview: Cardinals vs. Dodgers

St. Louis Cardinals (91-71) at

Los Angeles Dodgers (95-67)

OVERVIEW

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 LINEUPS

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.)

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