NLDS Game 4 Preview: LAD @ STL

Last night we found out we were wrong about Hyun-Jin Ryu as he pitched six innings, allowing just a solo shot by Matt Carpenter in his second at bat. The Dodgers battled back in the sixth inning after Yasiel Puig led it off by breaking his strikeout streak with a ball in the corner that Randal Grichuk misplayed into a triple for Puig. Two batters later, Hanley Ramirez doubled him home to tie up the game.

This series has been defined by lefties so far. Clayton Kershaw, Ryu, Carpenter, so it probably should have been expected when Kolten Wong put a ball in the Cardinals’ bullpen in the 7th inning off a left handed reliever to give the Cardinals a 3-1 lead. Pat Neshek would hold the lead this time and Trevor Rosenthal, after a couple bloop shots for singles from the Dodgers and a little mound work, was able to fend off the Dodgers attack to close out the game to take the series lead 2 games to 1.

The Dodgers had already determined before yesterday’s Game 3 that Kershaw would be pitching Game 4 on short rest. From the Dodgers’ perspective it makes the most sense, especially now that they are facing elimination in this afternoon’s game. Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball and you don’t want to go down with your ace kicking back in the dugout, even with his postseason record, most of which comes against the Cardinals. [click to continue…]

NLDS Game 3 Preview: LAD @ STL

Saturday night Zack Greinke quieted the St. Louis Cardinals bats, but the Cardinals weren’t asleep just yet. Matt Carpenter, who has been the team’s offensive spark plug so far this season, put a game-tying two-run home run over the right center field fence to tie up the game. The fact that Greinke had been near flawless all night didn’t matter anymore. The Cardinals were back in the game and Pat Neshek was coming in to pitch the bottom of the 8th. Unfortunately, Matt Kemp took the fourth pitch he saw from Neshek and put it over the left field fence to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead. A lead they would keep the rest of the way to even up the series at one game a piece.

Tonight the Dodgers do a little gambling. Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has pitched just a single inning over the last month, will be starting for the Dodgers. Their manager, Don Mattingly, also revealed today that he will use Clayton Kershaw in game four on short rest and, if necessary, Greinke again in game five. For me it feels like a little bit of an unnecessary gamble as they have Dan Haren, who finished out the season strong, waiting for a start. Why start Ryu when he probably can’t go deep and then get into that soft Dodgers’ bullpen that, thanks to the Tigers’ elimination, is the worst remaining bullpen in the playoffs.

On the Cardinals end we will see John Lackey take the mound in the start he was acquired for. They had plenty of young arms who could get them to the playoffs, but none that had the experience of winning there once they did. Over his last five starts of the season Lackey had a 4.08 ERA and 1-2 record. Other than a bump against Milwaukee, he was performed well, and done that more often than not since his acquisition. Lackey last faced the Dodgers in August of 2013 where he went 8 innings and allowed 2 earned runs as the Red Sox lost 2-0. He has a career postseason ERA of 3.03. [click to continue…]

NLDS Game 2 Preview: STL @ LAD

Last night saw the Cardinals pull off yet another incredible postseason comeback to win a game they really had no business winning. At the end of the night they’d tagged Clayton Kershaw, a consensus pick for best pitcher in baseball, for 8 earned runs. That’s the most he’d allowed in a start since July 24, 2012. Also against the Cardinals. The two home runs he allowed tied a season high. Though he did on two occasions this season allow more than 8 hits.

Tonight we see each team’s #2 starters take the mound. They are two pitchers who could probably go to most other teams in baseball and be considered the staff ace. One used to be the staff ace of a team in the playoffs this season, Zack Grienke. The other has grown into the potential we’ve seen in him this season as he finally matured into a top level pitcher, Lance Lynn.

Lynn’s second half is what powered the Cardinals to the postseason. While Adam Wainwright and John Lackey each struggled with arm issues, it was Lynn’s steady right arm that kept the team in the hunt. Over the last five starts of the season, Lynn posted a 1-2 record and a 2.18 ERA. He allowed 2 earned runs on 4 hits over 6 innings in his only appearance against the Dodgers this season as the Cardinals won. He carries a career postseason ERA of 4.81, but his best postseason performances came in last season’s NLCS against the Dodgers. [click to continue…]

What pitcher’s duel? Cards win 10-9

The only good thing for writers in the top of the seventh inning of tonight’s Divisional Series affair was that their game stories weren’t a total loss. As they described the failings of a manager to go and pull his ace from a game when they no longer were getting the job done, they just simply needed to use the Find & Replace feature. Replace Mattingly for Matheny and Kershaw for Wainwright.

After Randal Grichuk went deep for a solo shot in his first postseason at bat, Wainwright managed to battle out of a pair of two on, two out jams in the bottoms of the first and second innings. Things were shaping up like the predicted pitcher’s duel. But Wainwright couldn’t emerge unscathed in the bottom of the third, which was briefly interrupted by a benches clearing skirmish after Yasiel Puig was hit by a pitch.

The Dodgers put two runs on the board in the third and everyone except Mike Matheny had figured out that it was time to try something different on the mound. The story was writing itself as Wainwright came out for the fourth and allowed two more runs. And then he came out for the fifth and let two more runs score. The two run home run for A.J. Ellis was the final punctuation on Wainwright’s night as it finally chased him from the game. [click to continue…]

NLDS Game 1 Preview: STL @ LAD

It feels like forever since the Major League Baseball season ended last Sunday, but the St. Louis Cardinals will return to the field this afternoon against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first game of the National League Divisional Series. It is the second straight season that the Dodgers and the Cardinals have met in the postseason. Last year, the Cardinals eliminated them from the postseason in the NL Championship Series in six games.

There may not be a better pitching matchup in the postseason than will take the mound in game one of the NLDS for the Cardinals and the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw, a pitcher who will probably win his third Cy Young Award in four seasons this year, facing Adam Wainwright, who probably would have won a couple of those Cy Young Awards if not for Kershaw.

Wainwright finished up his season strong after a slump in late July and August as he battled some dead arm issues. Over his last five starts of 2014, Wainwright posted a 5-0 record  1.38 ERA and pitched at least 7 innings and allowed 1 run or fewer in four of them. He took the loss in his only start against the Dodgers on June 26th as he pitched 8 innings and allowed 1 earned as the Cardinals lost 0-1. He carries a 2.53 career postseason ERA into his start and has never taken a loss in 5 NLDS starts. [click to continue…]