Thank gosh the Dodgers aren’t playing Matt Stairs and the Philadelphia Phillies! I still think about that game and what could have been for the Dodgers, but to be honest, I am glad the Dodgers lost in the NLCS twice to the Phillies because maybe that would have meant that the McClowns would be still owners today and who knows what that be like? I love the new ownership there is no drama from them. They came in and didn’t change anything other than bringing back the Dodger great Sandy Koufax, let the Dodgers organization do their thing and got out of the way. General Manager Ned Colletti once had tight budget that he had under the previous ownership, blew up under the new ownership. Colletti then went and got the players he wanted and now the Dodgers are facing the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series. Here are match ups of both teams heading into the series. Now bear with me once again as this will be long to read.
There is no doubt in question that the Cardinals have the better overall catcher in Yadier Molina. Molina is a possible candidate to win the NL MVP after carrying the Cardinals to the playoffs. A.J. Ellis could have made this match up of catchers even, but due to his bat starting off slow, the edge went to the Cardinals. Ellis, although is a big threat behind the plate as he lead the majors in the percentage of throwing runners out at second.
Adrian Gonzalez in his first full season in Dodgers uniform has proved to be the most consistent player and the MVP of the Dodgers offense. Gonzalez carried the team through the roughest stretches of the season. Matt Adams, who is normally the first hitter off the bench in late inning situations, but due to Allen Craig getting injured in the last month of season, is starting at first until Craig comes back from his injury. Adams reminds me a bit of both Prince Fielder and dare I say his name, Stairs. But overall, the advantage goes to the Dodgers because Gonzalez is also a gold glove and consistent hitter.
Matt Carpenter just made his first career all-star appearance this year. Just over a year ago, Carpenter was on the postseason roster as a utility infielder and now he is the starting second baseman on a still strong after-Albert Pujols era Cardinals team. Mark Ellis is Carpenter’s other half. Ellis hasn’t been to the postseason since his Oakland A’s days when he was younger. Ellis is very slick with the glove and comes up with clutch hits.
I would have given the advantage over to the Cardinals because David Freese is the third baseman for the Cards.. a year ago. But this year, both teams have two third basemen that are meant to play in October in Freese and Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe. As I said in my previous article, Uribe is poised to make a postseason run and Uribe more than exceed my expectations by hitting the game winning and series clinching two-run home run off the Braves that sent the Dodgers to the NLCS for the first time since 2009. Freese is also known that October is his month as well. Advantage is hard to say since both teams have “Mr. October” in their hot corners.
No question does this advantage goes to the Dodgers. Hanley Ramirez is in his first career postseason and he is making the most of it. Ramirez is extremely hungry. He is more hungry than any other Dodgers on the offense. Ramirez is one of the best player in NL and to have him play for the Dodgers is a blessing. Us Dodgers fans should be really fortunate to have Ramirez. Ramirez is meant to belong in October and make history. As for the Cards, they lost former Dodger, Rafael Furcal to surgery, counter with the weak hitting Pete Kozma. Don’t underestimate Kozma though, he is clutch, so he can get the job done.
Lately, Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford picked it up at the right time to get hot, hitting three home runs in the series in the Braves. Two home runs in the final game. Crawford a year ago, wasn’t happy with his time in Boston and wasn’t smiling. Now, Crawford is smiling and smiling is a good thing for any human being. Crawford is actually having fun with the Dodgers. Crawford is everything the Dodgers expected out of him this season, despite the injury put him on the DL for a little bit. As for Matt Holliday, he is still a threat on the offense, but has shown signs of declining at the plate. We all know he is not that great of an outfielder, but he still can play. This advantage is slightly given to the Dodgers because Crawford is simply heating up at the right time.
Jon Jay is the reason why Cardinals have won games from the outfield. Jay is no doubt a great defensive player as he saved the Cards with many gold glove like plays in center. He has struggled a bit with the bat, but being in the post season is whole new beginning for Jay. Skip Schumaker is going to man center field for the Dodgers. Schumaker, a former Cardinal, has won two world series rings with them. Schumaker is only starting in center field because Andre Ethier has been having issues with his ankle, but Ethier could be back soon. I expect Schumaker to have his best series here since he knows how to play at Busch Stadium.
Advantage: Cardinals, unless Ethier comes back and starts, then Dodgers
Do I have to even say it? Carlos Beltran. This guy is meant to be in October. He is one of the best October players in a long time. But this might be the series where he could get possibly outmatched by 22-year-old phenom, Yasiel Puig. Puig is good at everything. Good with the glove. Good with the bat. The only thing stopping Puig from producing? His maturity. The kid is only 22 years old and already in his first Major League postseason.
The Cardinals bench consist of catcher Tony Cruz, utility man Daniel Descalso, second baseman Kolton Wong and outfielders Adron Chambers and Shane Robinson. Craig is on the disabled list at the moment. If you compare that to the Dodgers bench which consist of catcher Tim Federowicz, UT Nick Punto, a former Cardinal, 1B/3B Michael Young, outfielder Scott Van Slyke, pinch hitter Andre Ethier and pinch runner Dee Gordon. There are more known names on the Dodgers bench which gives the Dodgers more credibility and more accomplished players.
The starting rotations of both teams are strong, but the Dodgers come up on top though because the Dodgers have two accomplished aces in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. The Dodgers also have two other pitchers on the staff that could be aces on other teams in Hyun-jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco. The Cardinals counter with Joe Kelly, Michael Wacha, Adam Wainwright, Shelby Miller and Lance Lynn. With the latter two in line to start game four. Wainwright won’t be able to pitch until game three after starting game 5 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter is out for the year, but if healthy would have made the rotation more even in this series.
The Dodgers bullpen might have some changes after seeing Paco Rodriguez struggle in the series and in the whole month of September as well. Rodriguez may be wearing down completely. Despite Paco wearing down the bullpen is still solid. If the starters can go six innings with a lead ahead of the Cards the 7th-8th-9th innings consist of Ronald Belisario, Brian Wilson Kenley Jansen. Jansen could be the new definition of Mariano Rivera. Jansen has been dominant. Wilson has been a very solid set up man to Jansen. The Cards have in the 7th-8th-9th inning pitchers in Kevin Siegrist, John Axford and Trevor Rosenthal.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly only mistakes were in Game 2 on the pitching change not trusting reliever Chris Withrow enough and then going to Paco only give up the runs that lead to the Braves’ lone victory. Mattingly made the mistake of ordering Uribe to bunt before letting the bunt go and ended up hitting a two run home run. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has coached in the postseason before and almost made it to the World Series in his rookie season. With managers, you never know what could go right and what could go wrong.
Overall, this is going to be another good series to watch, but ultimately I expect the Dodgers to come out on top and win because of how deep their roster is and with my four names of the offense players that are poised to continue their postseason run in Ramirez, Gonzalez, Uribe and A.J. Ellis. I expect to see Puig finally break out and go for a big run after having a nice and mature series against the Braves. Cardinals are going to rely on Beltran and Adams for their offense as well as Matt Carpenter getting on base often. As for the starting pitching, the Cardinals are against huge odds in the game one and two since Greinke will be starting game one and Kershaw starting game two. Dodgers are fortunate to wait until game three to face Wainwright. Wacha, Freese and Carpenter are their x-factors for the Cardinals. For the Dodgers, Ramirez, Puig and Ryu are the Dodgers x-factors. As Magic Johnson said, “This is our year! Let’s get it!” Starting Friday in St. Louis, the Dodgers will resume their journey to the world series, by taking on the Cardinals in game one at 5:30 PST on TBS and 570 on radio. GO BLUE!