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It’s set. Dodgers will face off the St Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. Both teams had tough challenges and gotten through them which proved them to be worthy of getting to this stage. The changes in the League Championship Series, Instead of a 5 game series we now have a 7 game series in a 2-3-2 format. Last round in the NLDS the Dodgers faced the Braves where they manage to eliminate Atlanta in 5 games. This allowed the Dodgers to get the extra days rest they needed and wait to see who their opponent would be in the NLCS. Now we have our teams but what are the matchups looking like between the two teams. Lets preview our NLCS Series between St Louis and Los Angeles.
The Cardinals pitching staff is no joke when you look at the names but during Postseason it’s a tail of the Bullpen and Starting pitching. Starting pitching wise the Cardinals have a decent staff posting a 3.42 ERA during the regular season. Postseason wise starters are pitching a 3.38 ERA. It’s not a deadly rotation but the Cardinals starters are no joke. St Louis Ace Adam Wainwright has been pitching great in the 2 games he started in the Postseason, pitching a 1.13 ERA. In game 5 of the NLDS vs Pittsburgh he pitched a complete game in the win. In his only start vs the Dodgers Wainwright gave up 7 hits and 3 Earned Runs in a game where he was given the loss. Joe Kelly, who will be starting game 1, has been lights out the past two months going 9-2 with a ERA of 2.06. Game three vs the Pirates he gave up 5 hits and 2 Earned Runs in a 5-3 loss. Kelly has also pitched 2 games against the Dodgers as well with only one of them being a start (5-1 win on Aug 6th in St Louis) and the other as a bullpen appearance in the 5-3 loss in Los Angeles. Another guy we can’t forget is Micheal Wacha. For those who aren’t familiar Wacha is the rookie who No hit the Washington Nationals through 8 innings and went 7 innings without giving up a hit against the Pirates in Game 4 of the NLDS. Wacha hasn’t faced the Dodgers this season but he will present a great challenge for Dodger batters. When you look at the St Louis bullpen you’ll see a different story. St Louis bullpen have pitched a 2.45 ERA this postseason giving up 4 runs with 3 of them being earned. During the regular season this bullpen pitched a 3.45 ERA with a 20-19 record and 44 saves. As a staff the St Louis has had trouble with Dodger batters in the 7 game they have played in the regular season, pitching a 4.21 ERA against Los Angeles.
The Dodgers on the other hand go into the NLCS with a good rotation but questions in their bullpen. Los Angeles is pitching a 3.09 ERA this postseason. Dodger starters this postseason pitch a 2.73 ERA from their 3 that played in the NLDS against the Braves. With this being a 7 game series the Dodgers will now have to use all 4 of their pitchers. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly announced that Zack Greinke would start Game 1 in St Louis. Greinke started Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves and had a solid outing against the Braves but the run support just wasn’t there for him. Greinke made a start against the Cardinals back on August 5th in St Louis. In that game he went 6 innings giving up 8 hits 2 earned runs and had 4 strikeouts in the win against St Louis (3-2 Win). Clayton Kershaw, who will be starting Game 2, has continued his dominance in his two starts in the Postseason pitching a 0.69 ERA with 18 Strikeouts. Kershaw however has had trouble against the Cardinals doping both starts he made against St Louis, Pitching a 4.15 ERA against St Louis and giving up 13 hits (The most against a team outside the NL West.). Game 3 will have to be decided between Rickey Nolasco and Hyun Jin Ryu. Nolasco was expected to start Game 4 of the NLDS until the choice was made to go with Kershaw in the closeout game. Ryu started Game 3 of the NLDS and was very shaky in his start giving up 6 hits and 4 earned runs through 3 innings. Both pitchers have started against the Cardinals and has had success. Ryu in his only start gave up 5 hits, 1 run, and had 7 strikeouts in the win at St Louis where Nolasco in his two starts pitches a 0.75 ERA against St Louis. When it comes to the bullpen the Dodgers will have to be on their A game. With JP Howell, Brian Wilson, and Kenley Jansen pitching well you think things will be alright..right? Well anyone outside of that has struggled, giving up hits and putting the team in bad positions to work with or giving up runs. Left off the roster for the NLCS is Chris Capuano and Paco Rodriguez while Edinson Volquez and Carlos Marmol are in. That leaves JP Howell as the only LHP in the pen. The Dodgers pitching staff against St Louis has had a lot of success, Pitching a 3.05 ERA against Cardinal batters.
The Cardinals have been known as a consistent hitting team and their ability to score runs is nothing to take lightly at all. During the regular season the Cardinals were in 3rd the NL in runs scored. The reason for that is how they’re able to hit with RISP (Runners In Scoring Position), batting .333 which is a NL best. Postseason however the Cardinals go into their series with the Dodgers batting .209. Looking at players like Pete Kozma, Matt Holiday, Yadier Molina , Matt Adams, and Carlos Beltran you don’t have room to sleep against them but one player you have to watch for is David Freese and Matt Carpenter. While both players are batting low averages in Postseason they’re still dangerous hitters in October and can strike in big moments that can shift momentum. The Cardinals also have some flaws with their batting that could haunt them in this series and that’s the inability of St Louis being able to hit against Left Handed Pitching. St Louis bats .238 against LHP which favors the Dodgers as they have two LHP in their rotation (Clayton Kershaw and Hyun Jin Ryu). Against the Dodgers St Louis struggled during the 7 game regular season series only batting .237. While they have struggled swinging the bat St Louis can strike at anytime which makes them a pretty scary team.
The Dodgers have been really lighting it up in the Postseason with their hitting .333 in their last series. Being led by guys like Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, and Adrian Gonzalez the Dodgers have really been hitting. If you look at this team going into the NLCS things could really swing in their favor. The Cardinals have no Left Hand Pitcher in their rotation which is great for guys like Carl Crawford (Struggled against LHP this season.). Another thing you can look at is the return of Andre Ethier. Andre didn’t start a game in the NLDS due to an ankle injury but pinched hit in certain situations when he was needed. Speaking of Hanley Ramirez he has been hitting the ball really good as well. In the NLDS against the Braves Hanley hit 6 extra bases in the series which was key for Los Angeles. Another guy who has been hitting well is Juan Uribe. Uribe is hitting .375 in the Postseason with 2 HR and 4 RBI’s. One of his home runs was the 8th inning shot that lifted the Dodgers to the NLCS. Los Angeles bat .280 against the Cardinals in the 7 game regular season series and that’s without Hanley Ramirez.
As stated many times the Dodgers and Cardinals met 7 times during the regular season with the Dodgers taking the regular season series 4-3. When it comes to postseason these teams have seen a lot of each other in the NLDS. Last two postseason meetings the Dodgers faced the Cardinals in the 2004 and 2009 NLDS with both teams splitting one each(Dodgers in 2009 and Cardinals in 2004). Last time these two teams met in the NLCS was back in 1985 when it was moved to 7 Games. The Cardinals won the series 4-2.
If you look at this matchup on paper it’s really evenly matched. The Dodgers are going in with hot bats and two aces starting games One and Two while the Cardinals go in with a rotation that has been pretty good and a Lineup that can strike at anytime. Cardinals are a fundamentally sound team and has been here before (3rd Straight NLCS appearance) but the Dodgers also have a veteran team while making their first NLCS appearance since 2009. I believe it will com down to who can be consistent and the Bullen. This series can go either way.
Dodgers in 6
The Dodgers have completed the second step. Last night the Dodgers advanced to their 10th NLCS in franchise history by defeating the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS 3-1. This was going to be a tough series one way or another as the Dodgers started off the NLDS in Atlanta where they split 2 games with the Braves coming back to Los Angeles. In L.A. the Dodgers would finish up the series dominating Game 3 and pulling out some heroics by Juan Uribe and Carl Crawford’s 2 Homer night. Now before I go any further I have to say hats off to the Atlanta Braves. They’re a tough team and no doubt look for them to be back in the postseason next year.
Last night many Dodger fans as well as the players celebrated this win and should. Yes is was advancing to the next round but for this team to really face adversity and momentum being shifted to the Braves side, The team found a way to pull it off. Fellow Dodger fans you should be proud of what the team is doing this far and the potential of this team right now because if things keep up a bigger reward will be coming for us. While this is a great feat this only means that another step has to be complete in order to get where this franchise needs to get. Nothing is set and stone yet and we know that this team will be all business once Friday gets here.
For right now the Dodgers will once again play the waiting game to find out who their opponent will be in the NLCS. Wednesday the Pirates and Cardinals will play a decisive Game 5 in St Louis. This also means the Dodgers will wait and see if they’ll start off the NLCS at home or on the road. If you’re loss the scenarios goes like this. If the Cardinals win Game 5 then the Dodgers will start Game One and Two (Friday and Saturday) in St Louis (Cardinals have the best record in the NL). However if the Pirates win Game 5 then the Dodgers will host the first two games of the NLCS (Pirates are the Wildcard team.) Times have not been announced as of yet but all NLCS games will be shown on TBS. Also if you are lost about the postseason Schedule make sure to check it out the Dodger website for Dates and Times so you can plan accordingly.
And It Begins. That’s right folks Baseball is finally here. The Dodgers full squad are at Camelback Ranch in Glendale Arizona and preparing for their upcoming 2013 campaign. This year there’s a lot of high hopes for the Dodgers after the ending of last season and the off-season moves that were made. Regardless of the signings there’s still questions that loom around this team but it seems like for the most part are working towards answering those. Theres a lot of headlines going into Spring Training this year…You can say more than last season at that and yes it is Interesting.
One of the biggest things that’s being talked about with the Dodgers is chemistry. Many fans and media seem to mention this a lot and wonder how the Dodgers will mesh on the field. Other players seem to be talking too, Most noticeably Giants First Baseman Brandon Belt who said “All I can say is you can’t buy chemistry.” That quote has had many Dodger fans talking but the players aren’t fazed by it at all. Matt Kemp however had something to say about Belts comments with a few words of his own. The Dodgers for the most part look like they’re getting the whole chemistry thing down but once they get on the field that’ll be a whole different thing. I honestly don’t believe the Dodgers will have an issue with chemistry. Hanley, Adrian, Kemp, Ethier, Cruz and so on have played in the second half of the 2012 season and only a few pieces will have to mesh which they’ll have all spring to get it together.
Clayton Kershaw named Opening Day Starter
Clayton Kershaw was named the Dodgers Opening Day Starter by Don Mattingly (Insert your pretend surprised face here). This was something that we ALL knew for months unless there was something we didn’t know. Baring any injury Kershaw is the Dodgers guy and there shouldn’t be any shock or anything like that.
Hyun Jin Ryu Impresses
Many Dodger fans have been waiting to see what Hyun Jin Ryu brings to the Dodgers and when he was given the chance in a Bullpen session he didn’t disappoint. Ryu placed the ball where he wanted very well, had good command with his fast ball but the curveball needed more work. Mattingly, AJ Ellis, and Rick Honeycutt were all very impressed with his bullpen session but the knock on Ryu was his conditioning which has gotten better. In Korea training and conditioning is a much slower paced conditioning schedule so it’s all apart of the adjustment that Hyun Jin Ryu will have to make. Feb 25th is when we’ll see Ryu pitch in a live game.
Non Roster Players
Usually in Spring teams have players who get signed to minor league deals and give them a shot to make the 40 man roster. This year the Dodgers are hoping to find a gem that will make the Opening Day Roster like years before. This year the Dodgers are looking for a vet in a young Bullpen and there’s a few arms that stick out to the Dodgers. One of them being Peter Moylan who was with the Braves last season but only played in 8 games. Moylan also has an issue with staying healthy which is something he’s working towards doing. Another is a player the Dodgers just signed to a Minor League deal in Mark Lowe. Lowe played 38 games with the Rangers last season until getting injured. Lowe has an escape clause in his contract if he does not make the Dodgers come Opening Day where Moylan is willing to pitch in Triple A if he doesn’t make it. Both of them will have to battle with Josh Wall and Stephen Fife. Outside of pitching you have players like Tony Gwynn Jr who was on the team last season fighting for a spot on the 40 man roster. Alex Castellanos, Ellian Herrara, and Yasiel Puig are currently on there right now so a spot for Tony Gwynn jr will be pretty difficult at this moment.
Saving the best for last. Sandy Koufax back with the Dodgers as an Advisor and was it a sight to see him back in a Dodger uniform. It was a treat having a Dodger great back in Uniform talking with players and helping pitchers like Hyun Jin Ryu and Zack Greinke prepare for the upcoming season. I think this is overall a great thing for the Dodgers to do. Koufax is one of the best Dodgers and to have him involved with franchise is great for not only the Dodgers and it’s players but for the Fans as well.
I’m going to take a few minutes to talk about something that I’m sure all Baseball fans out in the west coast (Basically California coast) can agree with me on and that is the landscape shift in Baseball. You see most of the time you have either the East (Yankees, Red Soxs, Phillies, Braves) or Midwest (Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, White Soxs, ) Ruling the baseball world and getting most of the attention and well deserved because of how they play and the division. From the last year or 2 that landscape is slowly but surely moving out to the west. About a year ago after the Angels signed Albert Pulojs and CJ Wilson I said that the baseball landscape would shift once the Dodgers get their new owners. So far I was right but I didn’t expect the extra stuff like the Dodgers trading for Hanley, Adrian, Beckett, and Crawford as well as becoming very active in the Trade Market during the season, The A’s beating out the Texas Rangers and The Angels to win the AL West, The Giants winning the Division and World Series (YUCK!!!) and the Padres got new ownership in the O’Mally’s (Former Dodgers owners and Yes the Family of the great Walter O’Mally). Baseball in California is getting interesting and moving on up.
You might be wondering how is that happening? Well let me go ahead and point it out for you. If you look at it right now the Yankees, Who would use to get pretty much any player they want, haven’t been really signing players like that and teams like the Dodgers and Angels this winter have been very active in the market. The Dodgers currently have a larger Payroll than the Yankees. YES THE YANKEES!!! Star players like Zack Grenike (Dodgers), Josh Hamilton (Angels), Albert Pujols in 2011(Angels) are moving to the west due to the Angels and Dodgers having the money to grab those big time players. The rivalries are also starting to grab more attention out west. The Yankees/Red Soxs has lost it’s luster due to the Red Sox’s decline and last season the Dodgers/Giants were in a heated Division race through out the summer. While the Red Sox/Yankees will have that historical bad blood the Giants/Dodgers will most likely be a divisional battle every year as will the A’s up and coming in the same division as the Star studded Angels will be something to keep an eye out for as well. Interleague out west is also starting to grab the attention of a lot of baseball fans. The Freeway Series with the teams the Dodgers and Angels have is starting to become a must see. If things go their way then the Freeway Series could go as far as a World Series Match up. Field wise the Yankees records were at least one W/L better than the A’s and Giants who went on hot streaks down the stretch. Think of it One and I don’t even like the Giants but it’s not about that right now. The Dodgers and Angels barely missed the playoffs which was disappointing for each teams fan base because of the current roster. What about San Diego you ask? Well now that they have new ownership it leaves the potential for them to become something in the NL West. While they won’t be like the Dodgers or anything in terms of ownership and having a major impact the O’Mally’s are no stranger operating a MLB Team. They have the challenge of not only fielding a team that can compete but filling the seats at Petco Park. The Padres played role of the spoiler towards the end and won 78 Games which gives the new ownership something to build on.
While I am a Dodger fan and live out in Los Angeles I am not blind at whats going on here. Yes the media will always have some east coast bias to it and the results on the field will have to back me up but the shift is starting to happen. We already seen a team have a higher payroll than the New York Yankees (Dodgers). It’s all right there. Weather you agree or disagree Is solely up to you but I can tell you in my opinion the West is starting to become an attention grabber so far and if the results on the field are what we hope it is then watch out.
Dodgers starting off the season on Fire going 9-1 making it their best Start since 1988…That was the year they won the World Series. After All that the Dodgers have went through this is a start that the Dodgers and it’s fans could use. Now not to rain on parades but the last time the Dodgers had a great start was 2005 where the Dodgers jumped out of the gate at 12-2 but ended the season at 71-91 which was one of the Franchises worst records but what makes this so different is that the Dodgers have the players to do damage. I’ve heard it all from people regarding this start and while Many are excited about the 9-1 start others are skeptical stating that they’ve only played two teams that the Dodgers Should handle. I for one am Excited at the 9-1 Start but see room for improvement but what can you say?
I understand that we’re 10 games into a 162 Game season and anything can happen but rallying the wins for this Ball club won’t hurt. I will throw out one argument is the whole “Look at who the Dodgers played” or They’re suppose to be them comments. Its hard to go 9/10 In Baseball against Any Team in Baseball and the way the Dodgers Did it makes this start impressive. The Dodgers will be tested this week against on the road against the Milwaukee Brewers and get the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals (Yes I said the Nationals) at Dodgers Stadium before hitting a tough month of May. The 9-1 Start is a good build in momentum leading up to the tough games.
Why are the Dodgers on this good start. Well 10 Games in the Dodgers are playing really good Baseball. offensively the Dodgers are getting great production from Matt Kemp who has been continuing to play out of his mind and Andre Ethier is redeeming himself from a not so good 2011 Season and Juan Rivera is still that solid player to back them up but it’s not only those three stepping up to help. Mark Ellis, AJ Ellis, and YES Juan Uribe are also contributing with their bats. The Dodgers however need Dee Gordon to get on base to provide another Base Stealing threat for the Dodgers but Dee will have to have better plate discipline for that to happen. Pitching has also been pretty good. While Clayton Kershaw has yet to record a win others behind him has stepped up to help provide the wins. Chad Billingsley in two games has played like he did in his All-Star years proving to be a Solid number two. Ted Lilly in his first start back from injury and Chris Capuano has really stepped up as well. While some like the Bullpen right now Outside of Javy Guerra, Kenley Janson, and Josh Lindbloom ,who has done a great job so far, Im not yet sold on the Bullpen but so far has done a good job.
What does this start mean? Well for the Dodgers and Dodger fans it means a lot. After enduring what went down last season and the off-season with McCourt the Dodgers and the City of Los Angeles are riding a high off Momentum. Momentum that has started with Magic’s Group Purchase of the Dodgers and continuing with the Dodgers play and if the Dodgers keep this up then sky is the limit for the team. Now the Dodgers won’t sweep everyone or win every series but if the Dodgers can take 2 of 3 or 3 of 4 in most series games and the NL West then they’re in the Playoffs and add another NL West title. Los Angeles is buzzing thanks to the Boy in Blue. Something Special is happening in Los Angeles Baseball Fans.