National League Division Series
LOS ANGELES VS. NEW YORK
Dodgers: In the playoffs, pitching and good defense are all that matters. Thanks to a solid core rotation consisting of veteran starters Greg Maddux, Brad Penny and Derek Lowe, the Dodgers have the playoff experience to surprise any critics, and especially the Mets. Lowe demonstrated his playoff tenacity for the Boston Red Sox during their 2004 World Series run and Greg Maddux’s career-long stint with the dominant Atlanta Braves was more than legendary.
Offensively, the Dodgers may lack what the Mets bring to the plate, but they have enough pop to snag three wins from the Mets. Because of their sluggish offense, the Dodgers will have to rely on their bullpen to hang on to close leads. Closer Takashi Saito has not blown a save since Aug. 25 and his 0.00 E.R.A. against the Mets this year only suggests his continued dominance.
Mets: The loss of starting pitcher Pedro Martinez to rotator cuff surgery leaves the Mets with only two experienced starting pitchers – Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez. Yet, Hernandez injured his calf muscle during warm-ups yesterday and is a game time decision for today’s opener. If Hernandez sits, rookie John Maine will take his place, most likely amounting to a loss for the one-dimensional Mets.
All eyes will be focused on shortstop Jose Reyes, center fielder Carlos Beltran and first baseman Carlos Delgado – three of the best players in the majors at their respective positions. If the Mets want to advance to the championship series, these three will have to provide the incredible offensive numbers they’ve busted out during the regular season.
My Pick: The Dodgers will beat the Mets in four games, winning the series back home thanks to starting pitcher Brad Penny.
SAN DIEGO VS. ST. LOUIS
Padres: The only reason San Diego made it to the playoffs was thanks to the regular season domination of the New York Mets and the mediocrity of the National League. Starting right-hander Jake Peavy has continued to struggle this year, while pitchers Woody Williams and Chris Young have had to step up in his absence. Neither have the pitch repertoire to keep the high-powered Cardinals from scoring all day long.
With an offense whose stars include aging veterans Brian Giles, Mike Piazza and Todd Walker, it will be the young gun Mike Cameron who must carry the Padres entirely on his shoulders.
Cardinals: After starting pitcher Chris Carpenter dominated the Padres in the series’ first game, the Cardinals will follow with right-handers Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver, followed by Carpenter again in game four. Jason Isringhausen and their decent bullpen won’t be needed much this series as the Cardinals offense will exploit the Padres meager pitching.
Albert Pujols could beat the Padres by himself, but with the help of third baseman Scott Rolen and the rest of the Cardinals high-powered offense, the Padres will be knocked out of the playoffs as suddenly as they arrived.
My Pick: St. Louis will win in four games after Jeff Weaver blows another clutch appearance in game two. Carpenter will notch two wins this series, finishing off the Padres in their fourth meeting.
National League Championship Series: Los Angeles vs. St. Louis