Friday marks the start of the National League Divisional series, which pits the San Francisco Giants against the Washington Nationals and the St. Louis Cardinals against the Los Angeles Dodgers. First pitch at Nationals Park will be at 3:07 PM. The night game at Dodger Stadium will start at 6:37 PM.
In the day game, the Giants will bring all the momentum after pummeling the Pirates in an 8-0 victory. The Giants will play the underdog role as they did in the 2010 and 2012 postseason in which they took home the World Series trophy. The Nationals, however, are the owners of the best record in the National League and will have home field advantage throughout.
The batting lineup for the Nationals is 1 of 2 in the National League (Pirates) to have 2 players finish in the top ten for average with Werth and Span. Those two were not the only ones to shoulder the offensive load however, as the Nationals come into this series with a lineup that sees significant production from every position. Ian Desmond had a monster year from the shortstop position accumulating 24 homeruns and 91 RBIs and Bryce Harper’s return has lived up to expectations considering that in the second half of the year he hit .288 with 11 homeruns. This will be a very challenging team to pitch to, and the Giants will not be able to use their ace, Bumgarner, until game 3. The probable pitching matchups are as follows:
Game 1: Jake Peavy (7-13, 3.73 ERA) vs. Stephen Strasburg (14-11, 3.14 ERA, 242 Ks National League leader)
Game 2: Tim Hudson (9-13, 3.57 ERA) vs. Jordan Zimmerman (14-5, 2.66 ERA)
Game 3: Madison Bumgarner (18-10, 2.98 ERA) vs. Doug Fister (16-6, 2.41 ERA)
Game 4: Ryan Vogelsong (8-13, 4.00 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzales (10-10, 3.57 ERA)
On the other side of the playoff bracket we see a rematch of last year’s NLCS, which saw the Cardinals win in 6 games. In that series, Clayton Kershaw lost both of his starts giving up 7 runs in his second, clinching the series for the Cardinals. The Dodgers finished the season with a 94-68 record winning their last 5 games. The Cardinals won the central division with a 90-72 record. The Cardinals push for the division was largely due to the resurgence of Matt Holliday in the second half. The veteran slugged the first half at a clip of .389, well below his career average of .523. His second half was more in line with his potential however, as the star slugged .515 since the middle of July. A big question mark going into the playoffs was what the Cardinals were going to do with the playoff hero Michael Wacha once he came off the disabled list. It appears Wacha did not do enough in his 4 September starts and has been delegated to the bullpen for the series. Wacha went 2-0 going 13.2 innings without giving up a run in the NLCS last year. He was the MVP for the series. The Dodgers recently announced that Hyun jin Ryu will be available for the series and is slated to start game 3. Ryu has not pitched since being lifted following the first inning of a game on September 12. He finished the season with a 14-7 record, 1.19 WHIP and a 3.38 ERA. The probable pitching matchups are as follows:
Game 1: Adam Wainwright (20-9, 2.38 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (21-3, 1.77 ERA)
Game 2: Lance Lynn (15-10, 2.74 ERA) vs. Zach Greinke (17-8, 2.71 ERA)
Game 3: John Lackey (14-10, 3.82 ERA) vs. Hyun Jin Ryu (14-7, 3.38 ERA)
Postseason baseball is officially here and excitement is spiking amongst the fans of the four clubs. Soon we will know whether World Series mainstays in the Cardinals and Giants, or developing powerhouses in the Dodgers and Nationals will be moving on to the NLCS.
Written by: Robert Sable