Oct 7, 2012, 8:33 AM EDT
You can’t predict baseball, but you can at least lay out the parameters. So let’s take a look at what the Cardinals and Nationals have in store for us in the National League Division Series.
St. Louis Cardinals (88-74) vs. Washington Nationals (98-64)
Game 1 Sunday in St. Louis: Gio Gonzalez vs. Adam Wainwright
Game 2 Monday in St. Louis: Jordan Zimmermann vs. Jaime Garcia
Game 3 Wednesday in Washington, D.C.: Chris Carpenter vs. Edwin Jackson
Game 4 (if necessary) Thursday in Washington, D.C.
Game 5 (if necessary) Friday in Washington, D.C.
Analysis: The Nationals’ postseason rotation would obviously look far more fierce with Stephen Strasburg active, but you already knew that. And these previews are supposed to be informative. Gonzalez, a Cy Young Award candidate in the National League, posted a stellar 2.89 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 32 starts this year for the NL East champions, tallying 207 strikeouts over 199 1/3 innings. But he was almost a full run worse on the road (3.31 ERA) than at home (2.28 ERA) and he has a 4.2 career BB/9. The Cardinals, meanwhile, finished with the highest collective on-base percentage in the major leagues this season.
Beating Gonzalez in Game 1 would put the Cards in a pretty great spot. Game 2 starter Garcia has a 2.48 career ERA at home and matches up well against a Nats lineup that relies heavily on left-handed hitters Bryce Harper and Adam LaRoche. There’s a decent chance that 88-win St. Louis could be up 2-0 on 98-win Washington before the five-game series shifts to the nation’s capital. You have Bud Selig to thank for that one.
- The Nats beat the Cards in four out of seven games during the regular season and outscored ‘em 43-40.
- Zimmermann had a 2.36 ERA in 16 road starts this season and a 3.54 ERA in 16 starts in Washington. If the Nationals drop Game 1 at Busch Stadium, he could be a stabilizing force the next day.
- Wainwright showed some signs of fatigue in early September, but his final regular season start was against this same Nationals team and he held them to one earned run over six innings while striking out five. He’s been telling reporters all summer that his surgically-repaired right elbow is 100 percent healthy.
- E-Jax started opposite Wainwright in that aforementioned game, yielding eight earned runs while recording only four outs against the team he won the World Series with in 2011. That game was played at Busch Stadium. Jackson should feel a little more comfortable at home in Nationals Park for Game 3.
- Carpenter made a surprise return to the Cardinals’ rotation in mid-September after being ruled out for the year with thoracic outlet syndrome. He looked fairly sharp in his three starts down the stretch, posting a 3.71 ERA and 12/3 K/BB ratio in 17 innings against the Cubs, Astros and Reds. The veteran righty was an animal in the postseason last October and can be effective even when he doesn’t have his best stuff.
- It’s an odd thing in a series that features big names like Matt Holliday, Ryan Zimmerman, Carlos Beltran, Jayson Werth and Yadier Molina, but the player most casual fans will tune in to see this week is the 19-year-old Harper. He registered a 1.043 OPS over his final 126 regular-season plate appearances and told CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman on Saturday that he has no nerves about playing in his first postseason game. Harper has been overshadowed somewhat this year by the Angels’ Mike Trout. With the Halos failing to make the playoffs, Bryce gets the phenom spotlight all to himself.
- The Nationals will have a distinct advantage if these games are close in the later innings because of their dominant bullpen. Tyler Clippard struggled in September but has the goods to bounce back now that he’s been given a week of rest. Drew Storen has been exceptional his entire young career and Sean Burnett is an elite setup man. The Cards have some nice, battle-tested relievers in Jason Motte, Mitchell Boggs and Lance Lynn, but there’s a clear talent discrepancy. Oh, and St. Louis will carry only one lefty in the ‘pen: Mark Rzepczynski. He had a 4.24 ERA in 46 2/3 innings during the regular season.
At the MLB level, anything can happen in a five-game series. And there’s certainly no glaring favorite here. But the Cardinals get to open with two consecutive games at home, where they were 50-31 this season. A quick two-game lead would put the younger, less experienced Nationals roster on the ropes.
CARDINALS WIN THE SERIES 3-1
Mar 31, 2015, 4:42 PM EDT
Why is this man smiling when his team appears to be destined for last place?
Mar 31, 2015, 4:17 PM EDT
“Sheer panic … things got very bad, very quickly.”
Mar 31, 2015, 3:40 PM EDT
Nice little loophole.
Mar 31, 2015, 3:02 PM EDT
WIll this man be smiling in October?
Mar 31, 2015, 2:14 PM EDT
Chavez appeared in 80 games for the Mariners last season.
Mar 31, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT
It’s supposedly just an arm cramp, but Brad Ausmus isn’t ruling out the DL.
Mar 31, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
A long-overdue measure will, apparently, soon be in place.
Mar 31, 2015, 12:46 PM EDT
Wright had a rough spring, allowing 11 runs in eight appearances.
Mar 31, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT
With this team, they’ll need it.
Mar 31, 2015, 12:16 PM EDT
Petricka saved 14 games with a 2.96 ERA and 55/33 K/BB ratio in 73 innings last season.
Mar 31, 2015, 11:50 AM EDT
“I’m encouraged by it, and we’ll see how it carries over into the season.”
Mar 31, 2015, 11:33 AM EDT
But most people can afford tickets or are paid to play the games are decidedly not blue collar.
Mar 31, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT
He got the nod over Mark Buehrle.
Mar 31, 2015, 11:02 AM EDT
Jenna and I talk about the Mariners’ dynamite pitching staff, Mike Trout’s need of some support and when the Astros will finally break into the picture.
Mar 31, 2015, 10:47 AM EDT
Probably destined for a part-time gig.
Mar 31, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
The Phillies outfield is gonna be a train wreck.
Mar 31, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Street is without an agent, representing himself, and has said he won’t negotiate after Opening Day.
Mar 31, 2015, 9:50 AM EDT
There is still a lot of time before anything can happen, but it’s looking less and less likely that the Rays will stay in Tampa Bay.
Mar 31, 2015, 9:25 AM EDT
Really, are there any Mets fans who actually care what Wilpon has to say at this point?
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