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
Jul 4, 2015, 12:58 AM EDT
In a shocking move, the Rangers designated Neftali Feliz for assignment to clear roster space for Matt Harrison.
Jul 3, 2015, 11:45 PM EDT
Base Ba’al has no mercy for Coco Crisp.
Jul 3, 2015, 11:05 PM EDT
The Mets are VERY interested in Ben Zobrist.
Jul 3, 2015, 10:10 PM EDT
The Mets are getting desperate for runs, but aren’t ready to rush prospect Michael Conforto just yet.
Jul 3, 2015, 9:20 PM EDT
Miguel Cabrera suffered a calf injury after a single in the fourth inning on Friday against the Blue Jays.
Jul 3, 2015, 9:08 PM EDT
Anibal Sanchez has silenced a tough Blue Jays lineup.
Jul 3, 2015, 8:35 PM EDT
Patrick Corbin will complete his long trek back to the major leagues when he starts against the Rockies on Saturday.
Jul 3, 2015, 7:45 PM EDT
The Athletics haven’t used Josh Reddick much against left-handed starters. Reddick isn’t too happy with that, despite his results against southpaws.
Jul 3, 2015, 6:55 PM EDT
Jameson Taillon was getting pretty close to returning to action for the Pirates, but an inguinal hernia has knocked him back on the shelf.
Jul 3, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT
The Cubs acquired Clayton Richard from the Pirates and he’ll start for the club on Saturday.
Jul 3, 2015, 4:40 PM EDT
Jul 3, 2015, 3:52 PM EDT
Both he and the White Sox have disappointed this year, but he could help a contender.
Jul 3, 2015, 3:11 PM EDT
Chamberlain has posted a 4.09 ERA and an ugly 1.682 WHIP in 30 appearances this year. Gorzelanny has been even worse.
Jul 3, 2015, 2:13 PM EDT
$3.5 million will be paid out . . . to charity.
Jul 3, 2015, 2:05 PM EDT
He’s only had six plate appearances since being recalled in late June.
Jul 3, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
And, someone, Tony La Russa placed in this thing.
Jul 3, 2015, 11:37 AM EDT
He changed his mind.
Jul 3, 2015, 10:01 AM EDT
“We’ll leave it at that.”
Jul 3, 2015, 9:11 AM EDT
He has a 2.56 ERA and a 72/31 K/BB ratio over 102 innings on the season.
Jul 3, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
He wasn’t hit hard, but the Braves hit ’em where they weren’t.
- Rangers designate Neftali Feliz for assignment, activate Matt Harrison 3
- Anibal Sanchez loses his bid for a no-hitter with one out in the eighth inning 11
- The Yankees, A-Rod resolve their dispute over the $6 million milestone bonus 28
- Yankees donate $150,000 to charity to get Alex Rodriguez his 3,000th hit ball 19
- Mike Scioscia says Josh Hamilton should apologize to Angels owner Arte Moreno 87
- Settling the Scores: Thursday’s results 59
- Breaking: Cardinals fire their scouting director, likely due to the Astros hacking scandal 61
- Bryce Harper is naked in ESPN’s “Body Issue” 55
- Settling the Scores: Sunday’s results (99)
- Mike Scioscia says Josh Hamilton should apologize to Angels owner Arte Moreno (87)
- What Yasiel Puig being a pain in the butt means. And what it doesn’t mean. (78)
- Report: Jerry Dipoto “definitely out” as Angels GM (77)
- Brian Dozier is the best second baseman in baseball (72)