POTENTIAL NLCS PREVIEW AS DODGERS VISIT CARDS FOR HUGE FOUR-GAME SERIES
The St. Louis Cardinals have had a brutal schedule in recent days. Months of playing mostly bad teams was replaced by a couple of weeks of the Braves, Pirates and Reds. And, now, the hottest team in all of baseball is on the agenda as the Los Angeles Dodgers are in town for a very important four-game set.
This could be a preview of the NLCS. But, it could also be the latest evidence that St. Louis isn’t even good enough to win their division. They just went 1-7 against division-leaders Atlanta and Pittsburgh in recent action. If they struggle vs. the Dodgers…the Cards officially become a pretender instead of a contender.
ESPN recognizes the importance of this four-game test for BOTH teams (the Dodgers have mostly been cleaning up on soft opposition during their red-hot run), and will nationally televise action on Monday and Wednesday nights.
Let’s take a look at the probable pitchers…
LA Dodgers…Greinke: 8-3, 3.43 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
St. Louis…Wainwright: 13-6, 2.61 ERA, 1.04 WHIP
Greinke’s ERA has dropped about a run after his last five outings, as he’s finally found the form that made him such a high priced commodity. He looks to have recovered completely from his collarbone injury, setting up a potentially awesome pitcher’s duel tonight.
Wainwright has been elite all season long, giving Clayton Kershaw a run for his money in Cy Young discussions. You can see that he has better full season numbers than Greinke up above. What’s interesting, though is that Wainwright’s ERA has risen about a half a run in his last nine starts…and he’s allowed opponents to score at least four runs in three of his last four starts. Overall, Wainwright has the better numbers…but over the last few starts, it’s actually Greinke who’s in better form. Makes things very tricky for handicappers.
LA Dodgers…Kershaw: 10-6, 1.87 ERA, 0.86 WHIP
St. Louis…Kelly: 2-3, 3.10 ERA, 1.36 WHIP
Wow…Kershaw’s been fantastic….and deserves a won-lost record closer to 16-2 given those numbers. He was pitching for a team that floundered in the first two months of the season…or there’d be a better sense of the historic nature of his current numbers. About the only way to beat Kershaw lately is to throw a shutout! Which the Yankees did against him last week.
Kelly’s been surprisingly effective in six starts since being promoted from the bullpen. You can’t expect him to go more than six innings. He’ll battle as hard as he can to get there. His WHIP is probably a better reflection of talent than his current ERA…which can be bad news against this recently potent Dodgers offense. Big edge to Kershaw…but there’s no pressure on Kelly in a spot like this where everyone knows he’s such a big underdog.
LA Dodgers…Nolasco: 7-9, 3.78 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
St. Louis… Miller: 11-7, 2.89 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
Normally, you don’t know what you’re going to get with Nolasco. He can throw gems or have nothing at all. He’s been disappointingly consistent for the Dodgers since the acquired him from Miami. Four straight non-quality starts! They were hoping he’d be better than what they had in the #5 spot before he arrived. Still likely…but it’s not really happening yet.
Miller is still in the thick of the Rookie of the Year race, but his ERA has risen about a run over his last nine starts. The league is starting to figure him out…and this is also a reflection of the Cards running into some good teams on their schedule. He’ll have an edge over Nolasco, but Miller really needs to settle back into better form if the Cards are going to make a run at the league pennant. The pitching may have peaked too early.
LA Dodgers… Ryu: 10-3, 3.15 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
St. Louis…Westbrook: 7-6, 3.48 ERA, 1.41 WHIP
Ryu has been struggling badly away from home lately…but great run support continues to bail him out. He was also lucky vs. the Cubs to only allow 2 runs on 11 hits in five-and-a-third the other day. Anything less than his best, and he’s going to get rocked by these St. Louis bats. They’ve been crushing mediocre pitching all season.
Westbrook’s ERA has jumped a run-and-a-half over his last nine starts…as the laws of math finally caught up to this low strikeout pitcher. You can see how ugly that WHIP is for a starting pitcher. The ERA is moving in the ugly direction. Definitely a spot here to consider the Over. For the team side, whoever dropped at least two of the first three would be in a big bounce-back spot.
It’s very likely JIM HURLEY will have at least one big play in this series. There are several match-ups that have his attention right now. And, a very interesting two-game set with the Oakland A’s and Cincinnati Reds gets started Tuesday (and we’ll preview that for you here on these pages!)
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The summer was already sizzling…and now it’s heating up even more with the start of football. Link up with THE HOTTEST HANDICAPPER in sports…JIM HURLEY!
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