In Los Angeles, look for the total run count to be below 7.5 runs when the Dodgers host the St. Louis Cardinals in game one of their National League Division Series; take it at 1.77.
Admittedly, I was a bit too optimistic on low-scoring games in the Wild Card phase of this season’s playoffs, but if this Friday clash isn’t dominated by pitching then I can’t see any game in which the men on the mound out-class the hitters.
It’s barely debatable that the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the world at the moment. He went 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA this year. In his twenty-seven starts this campaign he allowed more than three runs in a game just once all year. And, keep in mind that he averaged more than seven innings a start so it’s not as if he’s been handing off the game to relievers early. Now the one fear is a repeat of 2013’s post-season when Kershaw was clubbed for seven runs and ten hits in four innings of work in game six of the National League Championship Series. I have two things to say about that. One: he’s such a competitor that I think that rare failure will motivate him; and two: that game occurred on the road and Kershaw is a better pitcher at home.
As for the Cardinals, Adam Wainwright may not shine quite as brightly as Kershaw, but he’s pretty close. He finished the regular season with a 20-9 and a 2.38 ERA. Most notable: he was particularly good down the stretch. In September he posted a 5-0 record and a 1.38 ERA. In terms of his post-season work against the Dodgers last year, he certainly held his own, giving up just six hits and two runs over seven innings in his only start of their NLCS match-up.
Take the Washington Nationals, on at 1.53 at home over the San Francisco Giants.
I know the Giants dominated in their Wild Card Game against the Pittsburgh Pirates (on the road no less), but this is a very different opposition – and San Francisco is going with a very different starting pitcher.
No doubt, Giants’ starter Jake Peavy turned his season around after being traded to San Francisco in late July. In twenty starts with the Red Sox, he went 1-9 with a 4.72 ERA; in twelve outing with the Giants, he was 6-4 with a 2.17 ERA. But my concern is two-fold. The first issue is that he has to go on the road. In 32 innings at AT&T Park he was beyond fantastic, allowing just four earned runs in 32 innings (good for a 1.13 ERA). In 46 2/3 road innings, he owned a far less incredible 2.92 ERA. It’s still good, but not as ace-like against a strong Nationals lineup. The other problem: His post-season history. In five playoff starts, Peavy owns a 9.27 ERA.
Washington pitcher Stephen Strasburg offers a lot to like. He’s hot (3-1 with a 1.13 ERA over five starts in September) and he’s pitching at home where he’s 9-3 with a 2.56 ERA this season.