St. Louis Cardinals v Washington Nationals
The St. Louis Cardinals are well-placed to sneak a home win off the Washington Nationals in their National League Divisional Series contest on Monday. Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia, who was shelved for a big chunk of the season, has come back in the second half of 2012 looking solid. He posted a 3.25 ERA in nine post-All-Star Game starts as opposed to a 4.48 ERA in eleven first half appearances. What’s particularly key for Garcia in this one is that he’ll be pitching at home; he’s thrown extremely well at Busch Stadium this year, going 4-2 with a 2.82 ERA (on the road he was 3-5 with a 5.02 ERA). So while Garcia was shelled in his one start against Washington this year – 5 1/3 innings pitched, nine hits and six runs – it was on the road, which offers some explanation.
The Nationals go with Jordan Zimmerman, who has been trending the wrong way. After dominating in the first half (2.61 ERA), he struggled down the stretch, tallying a 4.39 ERA in August and a 4.41 ERA in September/October. The fact that he’s set a career high in innings pitched this year probably points to some fatigue at this point in the season. St. Louis has recently seen him – Zimmerman threw 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs on September 29 – so they’ll know what to expect. Go with the Cardinals at rather than the Nationals.
Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees
The New York Yankees at the Baltimore Orioles is a reminder that playoff baseball is all about having players fit at the right time. In the case of the Yankees, they’ll benefit tremendously from a healthy Andy Pettitte, who missed a good portion of the season with a broken ankle. A ready-to-go Pettitte gives New York the most experienced playoff pitcher in baseball; this will be Pettitte’s 43rd post-season start. His 19 wins in playoff baseball is the most in the history of baseball. Pettitte also has a knack for winning at Camden Yards. While his ERA is a pedestrian 4.11 there, he’s 16-4 in Baltimore. Finally, he’s on form: Overall he had a 2.87 ERA in twelve starts this season and was in a groove at the end of the season winning two of his last three starts, allowing just three runs in 16 2/3 innings in those contests. On the back of Pettitte, the Yankees are the pick over the Orioles.