The best-of-five National League Divisional series kicks off on Friday with the Los Angeles Dodgers hosting the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium in a rematch of the 2013 National League Championship Series.
It was a particularly painful series loss for the Dodgers last October. Ace Clayton Kershaw had an uncharacteristically poor performance in Game 6. The St. Louis bats rocked the lefty for seven earned runs in four innings to eliminate Los Angeles in the final game, 9-0, and extended the Dodgers’ World Series drought from 1988.
The Cardinals have a history of being the Dodgers’ postseason nemesis. In 2004, St. Louis beat L.A. in the best-of-five National League Divisional Series, 3-1. In 1985, Jack Clark hit a game-winning three-run homer in the top of the 9th at Dodger Stadium to win Game 6 and advance the Cards to the World Series.
But in 2014, the Dodgers won the season series, 4-3. Four of the seven games were decided by one run. This year, the Dodgers may have the best pitcher in baseball playing at his best.
Kershaw, a favorite for the Cy Young and MVP awards, will look for redemption in Game 1. He struck out 13 batters over seven shut-out innings in a 9-0 win at Dodger Stadium on June 29.
The Dodgers, who are the top favorites to win the World Series at 4 to 1, are -200 favorites in Game 1, with the Cardinals' odds coming in at +180. The Cardinals are 17/2 to win it all, and 4/1 to reach the World Series, while the Dodgers are 2/1 to come out of the National League.
But getting by the Cardinals could be a very difficult task. Adam Wainwright will go head-to-head with Kershaw, after another exceptional season. The tall right hander threw 227 innings, and allowed just 2.38 earned runs per game. In his lone appearance against the Dodgers, Wainwright allowed just one run over eight innings.
In Game 2, Dodger manager Don Mattingly will send Zack Greinke to the mound, while Mike Matheny counters with Lance Lynn. Both starters have been consistent throughout the season. Both Greinke and Lynn had 1-1 records against their opponent, but Lynn was torched at Dodger Stadium, surrendering six earned runs in two innings.
When the series shifts back to St. Louis for Game 3 and Game 4, the pitching matchups become more curious. The Dodgers remain uncertain about the status of left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has battled shoulder issues in recent weeks. John Lackey is slated for Game 3, but he has been inconsistent in recent weeks. In his last two starts, Lackey allowed a total of three earned runs over 14 and one-third innings. It was an effect rebound after being ejected in his previous start, and allowing six earned runs against the Milwaukee Brewers on Sept. 5
Dan Haren could be the Dodgers' starter for Game 4, with the veteran coming off a solid September. Haren has posted quality numbers in six of his last seven starts, with his lone blemish on the road against the Colorado Rockies. Shelby Miller is slated to pitch Game 4 for St. Louis. The 23-year-old didn’t show much signs of fatigue in the final month, posting a 1.48 ERA in five starts.
Michael Wacha, who struggled in September, was left off the NLDS rotation.
The Dodgers finished sixth in runs (718), while the Cards finished 24th (619). Los Angeles finished with a .265 batting average with a .406 slugging percentage, compared to St. Louis’s .253 batting average and .369 slugging percentage.
Starting Pitching: Edge to the Dodgers
Bullpen: Edge to the Cardinals
Batting: Edge to the Dodgers
Bench: Edge to the Dodgers
Manager: Edge to the Cardinals
Betting Odds: Dodgers are 10/19 favorites to win the series
Prediction: Dodgers in 4
An IBTimes Staff reporter contributed to this report.