The National League Division Series are now set and the American League Divisional Series will be set after tonight’s wild card play in game.
Obviously the series we are most interested in is the one featuring the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. The Cardinals enter the NLDS as the top seeded team which gives them home field advantage throughout the playoffs and an extra couple of days rest to prepare. The Pirates won the wild card play in game against the Cincinnati Reds last night in a game that was in my opinion very poorly managed by Reds manager Dusty Baker in just about every aspect. The Reds did not look ready to play and started a pitcher who was very clearly not physically ready to start a game. The Pirates had an easy time of it as they disposed of the Reds 6 to 2.
The Cardinals and Pirates have played each other quite a bit this season and the Pirates have gotten the better of the Cardinals for the most part with the Cardinals faring a little better at home but not much. The Pirates did use their most consistent pitcher in winning last night’s game so we will not be seeing Fransisco Liriano until Sundaybut the Pirates have other good pitchers and the Cardinals bats have not done well against them this year. The Cardinals will come into tomorrow night’s game with a well rested pitching staff and their ace Adam Wainright on the mound. The Cardinals offense has played very well the last week and a half and they will need to continue their hot hitting tomorrow night. I think there is still a hole in the offense because of the injury to Allen Craig but they have begun to play better without him as Matt Adams has played much better as of late. The Pirates are starting a pitcher with no post season experience and have very few players on their roster with any postseason experience so I think the key is for the Cardinals to strike early keeping the home crowd into it throughout the game and putting as much pressure on the Pirates as possible. I also think it is imperative the Cardinals win both tomorrow night’s game and Friday’s game and head into Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh up 2 games to 0. The Cardinals have never played well in Pittsburgh and having a two game advantage puts the Pirates in a position of having to win the next three games and that isn’t easy to do. The Cardinals also need to get good starting pitching and avoid putting undue pressure on the bullpen which has performed admirably this year but there is a problem closing out games as Edward Mujica has struggled big time the last few weeks. If the game is still up for grabs in the ninth inning then that concerns me. The Cardinals can win this series but it’s not going to be easy and they will need to play better against the Pirates than they have throughout most of this year.
The other NLDS matchup finds the Los Angeles Dodgers in Atlanta to play the Braves with game 1 of that series being tomorrow as well. The Dodgers are a team of two halves as they looked like they were destined for last place during the first half of the season before turning things around in a major way after the all start break and easily winning the NL West. The Dodgers have two of the best pitchers in baseball with Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke but they are having a hard time keeping outfielders healthy as they have already announced that Matt Kemp will not play during the postseason and Andre Ethier is doubtful at this point. The Dodgers were swept by the Braves in Atlanta earlier this year and I think split their games in LA. I have to go with the Braves in this series as they have played consistently well all season and their lineup is much healthier at this point. Their starting pitching doesn’t exactly inspire awe but they get the job done and that’s all that matters.
The Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays play their wild card play in game tonight for the right to go to Boston and play the Red Sox on Friday. The Rays have already played one game this week as they defeated the Texas Rangers 6 to 2 in the wild card tie breaker game on Monday night. Both teams are young and well managed but the Indians are the hotter team right now. They also have home field advantage. I could see this game going either way but I have to give the edge to the Indians at this point. It really doesn’t matter though because I don’t see either team getting past the Red Sox.
The more intriguing ALDS matchup begins in Oakland on Friday as the A’s play the Detroit Tigers. The A’s have been either in first place or just a game or two out of first place for most of this season and are a good young baseball team. They are a fun team to watch. The Tigers have been in first place for almost all of this season but have struggled at times going on a couple of long losing streaks. Most of the Tigers players were also in the World Series last year and Jim Leyland is an incredible manager. They also have a slight edge in pitching in my opinion which could give them the edge they need. I can very easily see this series going the full five games with either team coming out on top. I have to give the edge to the Tigers though.
We’ll be back on Friday with a look ahead to a jam packed weekend of sports action. Keep the conversation going by following me on Twitter at KDEBlog. Thanks for checking out this blog and please take time to look at all the other excellent blogs on this site.
Have a wonderful Wednesday!