The St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers meet in the National League Championship Series after battling it out 18 times during the regular season. The NL Central rivals have some bad blood heading into a series that seemed highly unlikely a month ago.
St. Louis knocked out the Philadelphia Phillies and their highly-touted pitching staff in the first round, which is a bit of irony considering it was the Phillies who helped the Cardinals get into the playoffs in the first place.
Milwaukee almost blew its NLDS series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the ninth inning of Game 5 before righting the ship and finding a way to win. The combination of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder is virtually impossible to hold down for an entire series.
Which team will win Game 1?
Game 1 Preview: Sunday, Oct. 9 at 4:05 p.m. EDT
Cardinals SP: Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.56 ERA, 3.23 FIP)
Brewers SP: Zack Greinke (16-6, 3.83 ERA, 2.98 FIP)
Zack Greinke was one of the best pitchers in baseball in 2011 as evidenced by his league-leading 2.51 SIERA (an ERA estimator that factors in all elements of a pitcher's performance). He was a bit unlucky in his first and only start against Arizona, allowing four runs in five innings.
The stats a pitcher controls most, strikeouts and walks, painted a good picture for Greinke. He struck out seven and walked none. But he left a couple pitches up in the zone and the Diamondbacks took full advantage by hitting three home runs.
St. Louis' offense was better than Arizona's during the regular season and will be a tougher task for Greinke, assuming Matt Holliday is ready for battle. Holliday has been dealing with a nagging hand injury for quite some time.
Jaime Garcia proved his rookie season was no fluke by backing it up with another strong campaign. He's overshadowed by Chris Carpenter in the rotation, but could very well be the best pitcher on the Cardinals' staff.
This will probably be a low-scoring game that will be decided in the late innings, considering both pitchers' reputations. Since Milwaukee's bullpen was slightly better than St. Louis' in the regular season, they have the advantage in close games and will pick up a home win to start the series.
Game 1 Prediction: Brewers 4, Cardinals 3
|Game 1||St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers ||4:05 ET||TBS|
|Game 2 ||St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers||8:05 ET||TBS|
|Game 3 ||Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals ||8:05 ET||TBS|
|Game 4 ||Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals||8:05 ET||TBS|
|Game 5 ||Milwaukee Brewers at St. Louis Cardinals||8:05 ET||TBS|
|Game 6 ||St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers||4:05 ET||TBS|
|Game 7 ||St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers||8:05 ET||TBS|
Which team advances to the World Series?
Milwaukee has home-field advantage, a better defense, a deeper rotation and a stronger bullpen, which means it should be favored to advance to the World Series. If St. Louis is going to pull off another upset, its offense, including Holliday, must step up big.
With Fielder's impending free agency, this season will probably be the best chance for Milwaukee to claim baseball's biggest prize for a while. With the slugging first baseman and his right-hand man in Braun, they have a good chance to do just that.
Will St. Louis' magical run continue or will the Brewers claw their way to the World Series? I expect the latter, in a close series.
Series Prediction: Brewers win series in six games.