It seems that every self-appointed expert has predicted that the Los Angeles Dodgers will make short order of the St. Louis Cardinals in their National League Division Series match-up.
There are a lot of reasons for LA fans to be optimistic. First of all, the Dodgers ought to have twice as much talent as the Redbirds based on the fact that they have twice the payroll. Isn't that how things work, according to the Dodgers front office?
The reason most media types lean toward LA, however, seems to be that the Redbirds can't stack up to the Dodgers' twin aces, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
Pardon me if I am mistaken, but didn't the Dodgers have Kershaw and Greinke last year when the Birds beat the Bums in six games to win their 19th National League pennant?
I seem to remember a Dodgers fan in my ear in game six telling me how Kershaw was probably going to no-hit the Birds in that game. Turns out it was LA which was almost no-hit, collecting only two safeties in an embarrassing 9-0 loss that saw Kershaw give up four runs in the third inning and three more in the fifth before he was lifted after allowing 10 St. Louis hits.
The guy behind us mysteriously disappeared after that.
Kershaw ended up being 0-2 in the 2013 NLCS with a 6.30 ERA. Greinke was 1-0 on the series but the Cardinals beat the Dodgers in his other start in Game 1.
So... I wouldn't run the white flag up the pole just yet.
Sure, the prognosticators can say that the Birds will be without their former slugger Carlos Beltran who was a big producer last year. But another big contributor last year was Shane Robinson and no one expected that. Someone has to unexpectedly step up when you get to the post season. And the Cardinals have plenty of potential candidates including Randal Grichuk, Jhonny Peralta and Jon Jay.
While the Dodgers pitchers are tough, LA only won a handful more games than the Redbirds. For their payroll, they were pretty serious under-achievers for much of the year. So I see the Cardinals/LA series as a toss up.
The key is going to be the first two game. If the Birds want to make it to the National League Championship Series they need to win one of the first two games. If they can steal a game in Los Angeles they could take control of the series with the strong middle of their rotation in St. Louis. If they lose both games in California, they're toast.