NLDS Preview: Cardinals vs. Phillies

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You can’t predict baseball, but you can at least lay out the parameters. So let’s take a look at what the Phillies and the Cardinals have in store for us in the National League Division Series.

The Teams

St. Louis Cardinals (90-72) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (102-60)

The Matchups

Game 1 Saturday in Philadelphia: Kyle Lohse vs. Roy Halladay
Game 2 Sunday in Philadelphia: Undecided vs. Cliff Lee
Game 3 Tuesday in St. Louis: Cole Hamels vs. Chris Carpenter
Game 4 (if necessary) Wednesday in St. Louis: Roy Oswalt vs. Undecided
Game 5 (if necessary) Next Friday in Philadelphia: Undecided vs. Undecided

Analysis: I think Tony La Russa is leaning way too hard on Undecided here.  His arm is really gonna be sore at this rate.  My guess: he goes with Jaime Garcia — a groundball pitcher — for Game 2 in the cozy confines of Citizens Bank Park, and then Edwin Jackson — a flyball pitcher — at home in Game 4 at the more pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium, but La Russa could flip-flop those guys around.  Carpenter, who threw a shutout Wednesday night, is a lock for Game 3. As for the Phillies, Oswalt in Game 4 is an assumption. If the Phillies found themselves down 2-1 going into that game, I have this feeling we’d see Doc Halladay again.

The Storylines

  • It might be tempting to say the Phillies will simply steamroll the Cardinals, but the Cardinals took six of nine from the Phillies head-to-head this season;
  • One of the reasons: Jaime Garcia. He has been brilliant against Philadelphia for the past two years, allowing one run against them in 15 innings in 2011;
  • Another reason to give the Cardinals a puncher’s chance: the best offense in the National League. If anyone can touch the Phillies’ dominant starting rotation, it’s these guys;
  • That said, Matt Holliday and Rafael Furcal are both banged up.  Allen Craig has been hot lately and will take over for Holliday, but if Furcal can’t go, it’s a big falloff to Nick Punto;
  • Both of these teams have seen high drama — not the good kind — from their bullpens in late innings. The Phillies crew is the more talented bunch, but they’ve had their bad moments. The Cardinals blew 26 saves this year. It’s safe to say that a lot of these games will be decided late.
  • Quite a study in contrasts with these two managers too. Charlie Manuel is the epitome of no-nonsense. Tony La Russa is nonsense personified. Expect a lot of tight closeups of these guys blowing bubbles and looking concerned during playoff broadcasts.

Prediction

Despite the in-season advantage the Cardinals had and despite their potent offense, it’s pretty hard to say that they can beat Halladay, Lee and Hamels. Heck, hard to say they could beat two of those guys.  Remember: the 2010 Reds had the best offense in the NL and they just got steamrolled by Philly in the first round themselves. Tony La Russa always has a trick or two up his sleeve, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to overcome the Phillies.

PHILLIES WIN THE SERIES 3-1.

Another young fan was struck by a foul ball, this time at Guaranteed Rate Field

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ESPN reports via the Associated Press that a young boy was struck by a line drive foul ball but was not seriously injured during Sunday afternoon’s game against the Royals. The boy and a woman were escorted by a first aid crew to the concourse area and the boy was later eating ice cream in a luxury suite.

A woman was struck in the face by a foul ball also on the first base side at Guaranteed Rate Field on Friday, but she didn’t request medical assistance.

Last week, a young fan at Yankee Stadium was hit by a line drive foul ball, which motivated several teams to commit to extending protective netting at their ballparks. The Yankees, strangely, were not among them. Nor were the White Sox.

Diamondbacks clinch NL Wild Card

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Losses by the Cardinals to the Pirates and the Brewers to the Cubs on Sunday clinched an NL Wild Card berth for the Diamondbacks. Their walk-off, 3-2 win over the Marlins earned them hosting rights for the Wild Card game.

The D-Backs, now 90-66, trailed the Marlins 2-1 going into the bottom of the eighth. Daniel Descalso tied the game at two apiece with an RBI single off of Brad Ziegler. Second half hero J.D. Martinez secured the win with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth against Javy Guerra.

The Rockies beat the Padres on Sunday to increase their lead over the Brewers (+2) and Cardinals (+2.5) for the second Wild Card slot. One of these three teams will visit Arizona for the Wild Card game.

The Diamondbacks are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2011, when they lost the Division Series in five games to the Brewers.