With the Pittsburgh Pirates defeating the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night, 6-2, in the wild-card matchup, the National League Divisional Series are now set.
The Pirates find themselves with another stiff divisional test, this time against the National League's best team in the regular season: the St. Louis Cardinals. Meanwhile, in a matchup dripping with star power, the Los Angeles Dodgers take on the Atlanta Braves.
Both series promise to be excellent matchups. Let's break them down.
|Game 1||Pittsburgh Pirates @ St. Louis Cardinals||Thu, Oct 3||5 p.m.||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 2||Pittsburgh Pirates @ St. Louis Cardinals||Fri, Oct 4||1 p.m.||MLBN||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 3||St. Louis Cardinals @ Pittsburgh Pirates||Sun, Oct 6||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 4*||St. Louis Cardinals @ Pittsburgh Pirates||Mon, Oct 7||TBD||TBS or MLBN***||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 5*||Pittsburgh Pirates @ St. Louis Cardinals||Wed, Oct 9||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 1||Los Angeles Dodgers @ Atlanta Braves||Thu, Oct 3||8:30 p.m.||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 2||Los Angeles Dodgers @ Atlanta Braves||Fri, Oct 4||6 p.m.||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 3||Atlanta Braves @ Los Angeles Dodgers||Sun, Oct 6||TBD||TBS||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 4*||Atlanta Braves @ Los Angeles Dodgers||Mon, Oct 7||TBD||TBS or MLBN***||Postseason.TV; TBS.com|
|Game 5*||Los Angeles Dodgers @ Atlanta Braves||Wed, Oct 9||TBD||TBS|
* If necessary
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals
The good times keep rolling for the Pirates after they defeated the Reds. Their prize for that victory? A tough matchup against divisional rival St. Louis.
The first obvious advantage for the Cardinals is that they'll have ace Adam Wainwright for Game 1 and would have him for Game 5 if needed, as well.
The Cardinals can really hit, with five players—Allen Craig (97), Matt Holliday (94), Carlos Beltran (84), Yadier Molina (80) and Matt Carpenter (78)—tallying more than 75 RBI this season (though Craig won't be available for the NLDS).
With Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller behind Wainwright—and Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha available as well—the Cardinals have a stockpile of talented pitchers at their disposal. It's hard to find many weaknesses on this team.
The Pirates will need their pitching to carry the torch. Game 1 starter A.J. Burnett and staff ace Francisco Liriano have been spectacular this season, while fans will want to see star-in-the-making Gerrit Cole get a crack at this Cardinals lineup, too. As well, the Pirates have one of the best bullpens in all of baseball.
Offensively, Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez have been excellent this season, but you wonder if they alone can carry an otherwise average lineup. If the Pirates can keep the games low-scoring and can generate a few runs with speed and timely hitting, they've got a shot.
But ultimately, the balance of St. Louis will be too much to overcome.
Prediction: Cardinals in five.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves
Expect this series to be a battle of the pitchers.
The Dodgers have arguably the best rotation in the National League, led by a nasty one-two punch of Clayton Kershaw (who would likely pitch twice if the series goes five games) and Zack Greinke. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco give the team a solid third and fourth option, while Kenley Jansen has been excellent as the team's closer.
The Braves have a very good staff of their own, with Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Paul Maholm all winning 10 or more games this year, though it doesn't have the star power the Dodgers can boast. They also have the best bullpen in baseball, led by dynamo closer Craig Kimbrel.
Which teams advance?
The Braves will like their chances given that they went 5-2 against the Dodgers in the regular season, though October baseball is a whole new animal. While Atlanta led the NL in home runs this year, that all-or-nothing approach at the plate will hurt them against aces like Kershaw and Greinke.
Prediction: Dodgers in four.