Cardinals likely to be even stronger in 2013

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It won’t take the sting out of Monday’s Game 7 loss to the Giants, but the Cardinals have a great chance of being a better team in 2013 than they were this year.

The Cardinals’ only key free agents are Kyle Lohse and Lance Berkman. Berkman didn’t contribute this year anyway, and the Cardinals have a full rotation without Lohse:

Adam Wainwright
Chris Carpenter
Jaime Garcia
Lance Lynn
Jake Westbrook

Top prospect Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and Trevor Rosenthal are all available as fallbacks should Garcia’s shoulder remain a problem. Rosenthal presents a particularly intriguing option; if he remains in the pen, he’ll be a dominant weapon in the eighth. However, he has a whole lot of upside as a starter.

The Cardinals will also bring back their lineup intact, with Rafael Furcal expected back at shortstop after missing the end of this season with an elbow injury. Matt Carpenter could get a look at second as a potential upgrade from Daniel Descalso. And top prospect Oscar Taveras should be ready to step in if Carlos Beltran misses more time than he did this year.

So, the Cardinals may have a quiet winter, but that’s probably for the best. Even if teams like the Dodgers and Nationals make more noise, the Cardinals have as good of a shot as any NL team to reach the World Series next year.

Enrique Hernandez is single-handedly trying to send the Dodgers to the World Series

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We’re still in the third inning of NLCS Game 5 but the Dodgers are walloping the Cubs thus far, leading 7-0. Outfielder Enrique Hernandez has driven in five of those runs on a solo home run in the second inning and a grand slam in the third.

The other runs came on Cody Bellinger‘s RBI double in the first and Justin Turner‘s RBI single in the second.

The Dodgers loaded the bases on three consecutive singles to start the third inning, chasing starter Jose Quintana from the game. Hector Rondon entered in relief and struck out Logan Forsythe, revealing some light at the end of the tunnel. But his first-pitch slider to Hernandez caught too much of the plate and Hernandez drove it out to right-center field for a grand slam.

Hernandez has had two two-homer games in the regular season, on July 17 this year and April 15 last year. He has never had a five-RBI game. Hernandez’s home run in the second marked his first career postseason home run and RBI as well.

FanGraphs has the Dodgers’ win probability for this game at 96 percent. Clayton Kershaw is on the hill. It’s looking like they’re going to clinch the National League pennant tonight, but there’s still six innings left. We’ve seen big leads evaporate this postseason.