The St. Louis Cardinals dramatically booked a place in the National League Championship Series, but it will be anything but a fairytale on Friday when they play the Los Angeles Dodgers at home in game one of a seven-game series to decide the National League’s representative in the World Series.
Los Angeles’ big advantage came when they won their National League Division Series in just four games. This allowed them to set their pitching rotation in a more favorable manner than the Cardinals who had to use their ace Adam Wainwright on Wednesday to win a do-or-die game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The upshot: L.A. has Zack Greinke on the pitcher’s mound for this game. Greinke is not historically a great road pitcher (he has a lifetime 4.05 ERA in 148 away games compared to a 3.28 ERA in 152 home contest). Another issue is how Greinke pitched against the Cardinals in the NLCS back in 2011. As a member of the Milwaukee Brewers, he had two shaky starts, lasting a total of 11 2/3 innings, while giving up 15 hits and 11 runs.
That said the positives outweigh the negatives for Greinke in this contest. First off, Busch Stadium has not been a location where he’s stumbled in the past. Lifetime, he’s 3-1 there with a 2.28 ERA. In his one start there earlier this year on August 5, he went 6 1/3 innings, giving up just two runs.
Probably more relevant is his current form. He was sharp (on the road) against the Atlanta Braves in game two of the Dodgers’ National League Division Series, giving up four hits and two runs in six innings pitched. In general, he’s thrown like an ace since July 8. Over that stretch he’s delivered a 1.57 ERA and hitters have only been able to muster a .196 batting average.
As for his Dodgers, generally speaking they’ve been particularly tough on the road. In the regular season they posted a 45-36 record (.556 winning percentage) in away games, which is quite solid. Against St. Louis in August, Los Angeles took three out of four games from the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
While Greinke is the big name on the pitching marquee for this game, don’t count out St. Louis’ selection. Joe Kelly had a really good season this year (10-5, 2.64 ERA). Moreover, in his one start versus Los Angeles, he was definitely effective. He lasted only 5 1/3 innings but he gave up just one run. Kelly really only has one tangible red flag. He pitched a lot better on the road (5-1, 2.07 ERA) than at Busch Stadium (5-4, 3.29 ERA).
Still, there is an intangible that cuts against Kelly. In pressure-packed playoff contests between a youthful and an experienced pitcher, the veteran tends to throw better. We saw this in game five of the NLDS when the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright outdueled the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Gerrit Cole. I expect we’ll see it again here.
This is a tough game to call, but I’m going with the Dodgers, on at 1.83 to win.
Back the LA Dodgers to beat the St Louis Cardinals at 1.83
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