"It's about time! They should have clinched in Pittsburgh!"
This team, quite frankly, was in free fall the last week of the season. No one was hitting-and when they were, leads were being blown-and I thought that Colorado was playing better baseball and would surely catch L.A., if not overtake them outright.
Now that the Dodgers have gutted it out to enter the National League playoffs as a division champion, let me share my thoughts about how I think they will fare.
It's no secret that L.A's opponent in the Division Series, the St. Louis Cardinals, have one overwhelming advantage over the Dodgers that will probably be the deciding factor in this first round:
The Cardinals have two aces among their starting pitchers. The Dodgers have none.
Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright have provided a one-two punch in St. Louis that has been so spectacular, I wouldn't be surprised if they ended up sharing the Cy Young Award. Let's go over their numbers...
Carpenter was the league's ERA champion with a minuscule 2.24, while finishing second in wins with 17. Wainwright had 19 wins to lead the N.L., with a 2.63 ERA and 212 strikeouts-both fourth in the senior circuit. There clearly hasn't been a pitching duo this dominant since Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale in the 1960s; that is saying something.
Not to mention the fact that the Cards have baseball's best player in Albert Pujols. He didn't do much at all, merely hit 47 home runs to lead not only the National League but all of baseball, while finishing in the top three in average (.327) and runs batted in (135).
If Pujols doesn't win the Most Valuable Player award, nothing makes sense in the world. The same goes for player of the decade, as he has put up monster numbers ever since his rookie year in 2001.
Matt Holliday has been outstanding as well; since coming from Oakland in midseason, he has regained his dominant form; batting .353 with 13 homers and 55 RBIs. He's the reason why pitchers haven't been walking Pujols, who I'm sure appreciates Holliday for doing the job he has done hitting behind him.
One may think that I feel the Dodgers will get swept away in light of all that the Cardinals have to offer in this series, combined with the way they have been playing as of late—the last two games notwithstanding.
That's not necessarily true.
L.A. has undoubtedly had a great season, everyone acknowledges that; I certainly do.
Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier came of age, both driving in over 100 runs. Clayton Kershaw has continued his progress to becoming as good as his potential with a 2.79 earned run average, finishing fifth in the league, and the bullpen has performed brilliantly, leading the majors with a 3.14 ERA with Jonathan Broxton collecting 36 saves.
However, for most of the Dodger hitters in September, Janet Jackson's hit song from the 1980s, "What Have You Done For Me Lately?" would best describe them.
Five Dodger starters have hit below .235 during the season's last month, including Manny Ramirez, who batted just .234 and seemingly went days without getting a hit. Everytime I caught an at bat of his on TV, he was always taking strikes right down the middle and failing to catch up on fastballs.
If L.A. is to have any chance aganst St. Louis, the hitting and starting pitching-Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw, and Vincente Padilla will start the first three games-must step up and perform.
Otherwise this series will be a short one.
As for how I think this series will go, I feel that the pitching of Carpenter and Wainwright, combined with Pujols' and Holiday's hitting, will be a bit too much for the Dodgers to overcome, especially considering they way they have been executing the past couple of weeks.
The Cardinals will probably not only win the Divsion Series, but will likely meet the New York Yankees in the World Series; they have that much talent.
I certainly hope I am wrong; being a Dodger fan, I hope they can pull through and beat St. Louis. They are capable of doing so.
I suppose there's nothing left to do but see how all of this plays out.