St. Louis: After dominating San Diego hitters in the division series, Chris Carpenter showed all of baseball why he is this year’s favorite to win another National League Cy Young award. In his two starts against the Padres, Carpenter hurled for 13.1 innings, allowing only three runs on 12 hits and striking out 12. Yet, without enough time to rest between the two series, Carpenter probably won’t start until Game 3, then again in Game 6 or 7. If the Cardinals hope to advance to the World Series, they must get Carpenter on the mound.

Starting pitcher Jeff Weaver held the Padres scoreless through five innings of work in Game 2, yet his 6.10 career E.R.A. against the Mets suggests a dire situation for the Cardinals’ rotation. With remaining starters Jeff Suppan and Jason Marquis, the Cardinals’ staff will have to surprise the Mets – an unlikely occurrence. The Cardinals’ bullpen also looks shaky, especially without closer Jason Isringhausen, and will be tested in every game to hold on to close leads or stop the defensive bleeding.

Albert Pujols and the rest of the St. Louis offense put up 14 runs in the division series, yet they only managed to score three runs in the two games that Carpenter was not on the mound. If they want to avoid a second straight Championship series loss, then the big bats will have to come alive.

New York: With their domination over the Los Angeles Dodgers in their division series sweep, the New York Mets are looking to repeat their 2000 Championship series success, when they beat the Cardinals in five games. With veteran starter Tom Glavine slated for Game 1, the Mets are hoping to take the first game in stride. However, Glavine has only managed a 5-9 record with a 3.31 ERA in his career in the LCS. If Glavine falters again, the Mets will have to look to starters John Maine and Steve Trachsel to hold onto the series. Both have had little success against the Cardinals, yet the New York bullpen, with dominant closer Billy Wagner, has the firepower to pull its starting pitching out of tough situations.

The speed and all-around power of the Mets offense gives them a leg up on the Cardinals, yet the injury to left fielder Cliff Floyd leaves many question marks in the New York outfield. Shortstop Jose Reyes, center fielder Carlos Beltran and third baseman David Wright give their lineup a solid front half and will be the key to exploiting the Cardinals’ pitching mistakes.

Winner: If Glavine can escape a 10th LCS loss in Game 1, then the Mets will triumph in five games. Sadly, I just don’t have faith in the old-timer. The Cardinals’ pitching will slow down the Mets, giving Carpenter the opportunity in Game 7 to send his team to its second World Series in three years.