MLB Postseason Preview: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgersby John Lepore October 5, 2021 2 comments
After 186 days of the regular season, it comes down to do or die for the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers. The Redbirds made it into this National League Wild Card Game mainly by virtue of a franchise-record 17-game winning streak. They had a losing record at the All-Star break at 44-46 and looked to be fighting to tread water. St. Louis went 46-26 since then including 22-7 in September to give them 90 wins on the season. Even with those 90 victories, they finished 16 short of their opponent on Wednesday night, the Dodgers. Los Angeles tied a franchise record with 106 wins and since 2019 have won nearly two-thirds of their games (255-129, .664 winning percentage).
While the Cardinals have had their share of injuries this season, they are relatively healthy at the right time. The Dodgers, on the other hand, have two key pieces down for what might be the postseason. Clayton Kershaw experienced some left forearm discomfort and left Friday night’s game in the second inning. First baseman Max Muncy, the team leader in HRs (36) and RBIs (94) suffered a left arm injury in a collision at first base on Sunday.
Three Keys to Victory for the Cardinals
Old Man #1
Adam Wainwright will take the hill on Wednesday. The 40-year-old is enjoying quite a renaissance this season. Along with a 3.05 ERA and 17 wins under his belt, Wainwright has thrown over 200 innings for the first time since 2014. Just like the Cardinals themselves, the big right-hander has pitched well in the second half. Since July 21, he is 10-1 with a 2.28 ERA and opponents have just a .571 OPS against him. Even with Muncy out, the Dodgers have some pop in their lineup. If Waino can make them go base to base, he has a great shot of keeping them off the scoreboard.
Old Man #2
Yadier Molina will be playing in his 102nd playoff game. He is certainly no stranger to postseason heroics as the New York Mets and more recently the Atlanta Braves can attest to. Much of his value comes from behind the plate especially at this point in his career. However, Yadi does have a .280 lifetime average in the postseason which coincidentally is the same as his regular-season average throughout his career. Molina will have to find that playoff magic as he is only 1-for-17 in his career against Max Scherzer.
The Young Outfield
Tyler O’Neill, Harrison Bader, and Dylan Carlson have been absolutely raking and they are coming into the postseason hot. The trio has combined to slash .388/.426/.818 since September 22. At the plate isn’t the only place these three are getting it done. Defensively with O’Neill in left, Bader in center, and Carlson in right, they have combined for 29 DRS this season. If this group can continue killing it on both sides of the ball, the Cardinals have a good shot of knocking off the defending champs.
Three Keys to Victory for the Dodgers
Will the Real Bellinger Show Up?
Cody Bellinger was the ROY in 2017 and the MVP in 2019. Now it is 2021, and the former star has been downright awful. Even his defense is not up to his usual Gold Glove-caliber with a -1 DRS this season in centerfield. Aside from doing his best Chris Davis impersonation this year, Bellinger is actually 4-for 12 in his last five games. He will most likely be in the lineup on Wednesday especially with Muncy out and a righty on the mound. Can he regain his form?
Max Loves Blue
Since the blockbuster acquisition of Scherzer, the Dodgers have won all 11 of his starts. However, after surrendering just five earned runs in his first nine starts with Los Angeles, he has given up five in each of his last two. Although the Dodgers won those games, Mad Max can’t allow that type of offense from the Cards. He will need to shut them down as he did in 2019 when he tossed seven innings of one-hit ball.
The Other Guy
While the trade with the Washington Nationals seemed to center around Scherzer, the other player in that deal has been pretty good himself. Trea Turner led the NL in batting this season with a .328 mark. He also led the league in total bases (319), stolen bases (32), and hits (195). He has settled in at second base for now with solid defense and has hit well from the leadoff spot and more recently from the three-hole. He is a five-tool player that the Dodgers will need to get past St. Louis.
It is always difficult to predict a one-game playoff. Baseball analytics are based on a long season and larger sample sizes. However, if we look at the numbers, just about everything points toward the Dodgers taking this one. Jay Jaffe of Fangraphs wrote a detailed piece breaking down the numbers. We also discussed the NL Wild Card as well as a bunch of other postseason and award topics on the latest edition of Too Much Pod Tar.
Aside from that, The Cardinals outfield is hot, and Scherzer can be done in by the long ball, albeit usually with nobody on base. Wednesday’s night battle at Chavez Ravine will be a tight one but the Dodgers will be without Muncy and Dave Roberts will have to decide who he goes with at certain positions. St. Louis is fairly set and ready to roll out their usual lineup except for shortstop where it is up in the air between Paul DeJong and Edmundo Sosa. With the best defense in baseball and a great groundball pitcher in Wainwright, St. Louis will move on to face the San Francisco Giants.
Prediction: Cardinals 4, Dodgers 3
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