Nationals v Cardinals
The deciding factor when the St. Louis Cardinals visit the Washington Nationals in their National League Divisional Series contest on Wednesday is which Chris Carpenter will show up for St. Louis. Carpenter has a history of great success in the post season. Overall, he’s 9-2 in the playoffs and last year, he went 4-0, including two victories in the World Series. But Carpenter has basically missed the whole season following thoracic outlet surgery (a type of shoulder procedure). As a result, he only threw three games in the regular season. So which Carpenter should we expect? A look at his small 2012 sample set and Carpenter’s numbers are within the range of what we’ve come to expect in his career. His ERA was 3.71 (compared to 3.76 for his career), his strikeout rate was 6.4 per nine innings (historically, he’s at 6.9 per nine) and his hit rate was 8.5 per nine innings (versus 8.9 lifetime). In terms of his raw stuff, the velocity is definitely down from last year: his fastball was two miles per hour slower and his slider/cutter, his curve ball and change-up are all diminished. In the end, it’s a gut check and I believe that Carpenter will rise to the occasion. He’s a pitch-to-contact guy so as long as his command is there, it doesn’t matter that his fastball isn’t jumping as much (in fact, the slower secondary pitches allows Carpenter to keep the same velocity differential, which will help him). Call it a hunch, but I’m taking St. Louis at 1.95 over the Nationals at 1.85.
Yankees v Orioles
In New York, where the Yankees are hosting the Orioles, the issue is what is the right amount of rest before a big contest? New York manager Joe Girardi decided to give his starter Hiroki Kuroda a bit of additional rest but bumping him back from game two to game three of this American League Divisional Series. With a travel day, that gives the right-hander two extra days. As for the Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez, the rookie has been shutdown since October 2, as Baltimore worried about fatigue and wanted to make sure he was thoroughly well-rested. Gonzalez has good numbers in Yankee Stadium in two career starts (2-0 with a 2.63 ERA). But he hasn’t pitched in the post-season and the amount of off-time he’s received could lead to as much rust as anything else. Kuroda does have post-season experience with the Dodgers and should be just right to step up in this contest. Go with the Yankees at 1.55 rather than the Orioles at 2.45.