St. Louis Cardinals
(90-72, NL Wild Card Winner)
(102-60, NL East Winner)
The Philadelphia Phillies had the best team in baseball all season long. Will they end up proving it again in the playoffs in the hunt for the World Series once again? The first test is coming against the hottest team in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pitching Edge: This probably isn't as lopsided as you would think, but there is just no doubt that this is what the Phillies were built for. Over the last two years, Cliff Lee has been as dominating of a pitcher as one could have, and last year, all Roy Halladay did in his first ever postseason appearance was pitch a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds. Oh yeah, and Roy Oswalt... and Joe Blanton... and Cole Hamels... and Vance Worley if truly needed. That's not exactly chopped liver at the back end either, especially knowing that Hamels was the ace of the staff when the team won the World Series in 2008. The Cards won't have access to Chris Carpenter in all likelihood until Game 3 at home after he pitched a complete game shutout on Wednesday, and without Adam Wainwright, who is still recovering from Tommy John's surgery, Manager Tony LaRussa is definitely limited in his options. He'll have some combination of Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse, and Jamie Garcia to choose from in Game 1. Both of these bullpens are suspect at best. The Phillies' struggles have been well documented. Ryan Madson just isn't a legitimate closer, and Brad Lidge is just another postseason blowup away from happening. The good news is that the rest of the pieces from the rotation will now slip into the bullpen, which should help out. LaRussa uses more of a committee approach, but we're not sure about Jason Motte at the back end. Only Fernando Salas will be on the playoff roster in middle relief with less than a 3.00 ERA. Advantage: Philadelphia
Lineup Edge: The one man that can change this entire series is Albert Pujols. Perhaps this was St. Louis' worst nightmare in the long run. The team is set to go to the table to negotiate a potential long term contract with Pujols, who has been a lifetime Cardinal, and though he did bat .299 with 37 home runs, it was clearly the worst season he has had in awhile. Blasting five or six homers in the playoffs and batting .450 is a legitimate possibility, and that would make contract negotiations a lot harder. That being said, St. Louis does just hit the ball well. Yadier Molina and Lance Berkman both batted over .300, and of the regulars in the lineup, none hit below .260. Rafael Furcal and Matt Holliday are both battling injuries right now and might not end up playing in pieces of this series. Meanwhile, the Phillies, on paper anyway, should have a solid lineup. Names like Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley Shane Victorino, and Raul Ibanez should be leading a great lineup. However, none of those players even batted .280 this year, and the leader on the team is the newly acquired Hunter Pence. There's some potential there for the Phils, but until we see some production, the edge has to go to the Redbirds. Advantage: St. Louis
Series History: There's definitely some good news here for the Cardinals. They took three out of four in the City of Brotherly Love just a few weeks ago as a part of their storming back into the playoff picture, and they did win six of the nine games in this series in the regular season. However, what must be noted is that only four of those games featured either Lee or Halladay. At least three, if not four of these five if necessary will. The Cards are 21-8 in their last 29 games overall, and they were consistent, going 45-36 both home and away. The Phils won both 50 games home and away, though. Advantage: Philadelphia
Philadelphia Phillies vs. St. Louis Cardinals NLDS Schedule
Game 1 (Saturday): St. Louis Cardinals (TBD) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Roy Halladay)
Game 2 (Sunday): St. Louis Cardinals (TBD) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Cliff Lee)
Game 3 (Tuesday): Philadelphia Phillies (Roy Oswalt) @ St. Louis Cardinals (TBD)
Game 4 (Wednesday, if nec): Philadelphia Phillies (TBD) @ St. Louis Cardinals (TBD)
Game 5 (Friday, if nec): St. Louis Cardinals (TBD) @ Philadelphia Phillies (TBD)
Philadelphia Phillies vs. St. Louis Cardinals Pick: The Phils are just a really, really, really good team this year, and we know that these bats are going to get the job done eventually. Just averaging three runs per game in the playoffs is probably going to be enough, as we expect to see the Cards just get shut down by these amazing pitchers. The brooms will be coming out.
MLB Playoffs Pick: Philadelphia Phillies in 3 Games