The 2011 NLCS between the Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals has been quite an exciting series so far. The two teams are bitter divisional rivals and there has been a lot of drama between them in the past few years.
While the Cardinals are out to prove the critics wrong and get to the World Series as a Wild Card team, the Brewers are trying to make their second-ever trip to the World Series and their first since 1982 when they lost to the Cardinals.
Thus, if the Brewers can get past the Cardinals this time around, it would feel extra-special.
The Brewers won Game 1, but the Cardinals won the next two to take a 2-1 lead in the series. With Game 4 scheduled at 8 p.m. EDT tonight, Oct. 13, here are five bold predictions for the rest of the series.
The Cardinals' lineup is loaded with right-handed power hitters such as Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and David Freese, in addition to the switch-hitting Lance Berkman.
With the southpaw Randy Wolf on the hill, look for the Cardinals' right-handed bats to knock him around and score at least three-to-four runs against him.
Pujols and Holliday have yet to really get hot in this series, so this would be the perfect time for them to hit against the Brewers' lone left-handed starter. If Berkman could start hitting from his weaker right side, that would only make the Cardinals' lineup even better.
Furthermore, Wolf has pitched much better all season against left-handed batters. Right-handed batters have been hitting at a .270 clip against him in 2011, while left-handed batters are only at .246.
In addition to this, Wolf allowed 22 home runs to right-handed batters in comparison to just one home run to left-handed batters.
Unlike Wolf, Kyle Lohse's numbers against right-handed and left-handed batters are pretty similar. However, in 2011 he is 1-2 against the Brewers, despite a 3.37 ERA against them.
Being that he is at home and facing a predominantly right-handed Brewers lineup, the odds are that he will outpitch Wolf in Game 4.
What he really needs to do is limit his walks and the number of baserunners he allows. Most importantly, he must pitch very carefully against Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Corey Hart.
Fielder in particular can change the game with one swing of his bat, and he is definitely the most critical part of the Brewers' lineup. Even though the rest of the Brewers' power is from the right side, Braun, Hart, Rickie Weeks and Casey McGehee can all hit home runs at any given point.
All in all, if Lohse does not give up many walks and doesn't make any significant mistakes against Braun and Fielder, he should still be able to lead the Cardinals to a win in Game 4.
While some of the starting pitchers in this series may struggle, both John Axford of the Brewers and Jason Motte of the Cardinals should continue to pitch very well in save situations.
Both of these closers are young and new to the postseason, but Axford saved 46 games during the regular season to lead the National League and there is no reason to think he will blow any saves during the postseason.
Some say that the Brewers are destined to win thanks to their long pennant-drought, and this just might be the year that the Brewers finally win it all.
As for Motte, he was recently installed as the Cardinals' closer, and with a fastball as good as his, it will be hard for even the best sluggers to keep up with him.
He saved Game 3 a day ago, and if the Cardinals have a close lead going into the ninth inning in Game 4, Motte should not have a problem closing out the game.
Furthermore, he was 4-0 with seven saves at home during the regular season, but just 1-2 on the road with just two saves. Thus, look for him to pitch very well, particularly at home.
As many people know, Zack Greinke has always struggled with anxiety, so it should come as no surprise that the Cardinals fans are likely to heckle him at every opportunity.
Greinke will likely not pitch as well as he usually would because of this, but this doesn't mean that the Cardinals will definitely win Game 5.
The Cardinals will counter Greinke with southpaw Jaime Garcia.
Garcia will be facing a powerful Brewers lineup with right-handed sluggers everywhere. While Greinke may not pitch particularly well, the Brewers offense should definitely be able to out-slug the Cardinals offense, especially against a left-handed starter.
With their backs against the wall, look for Ryan Braun, Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks to all have big games, and for Braun, Hart, Weeks or Casey McGehee to go deep at least once against Garcia.
Game 5 should definitely end up as close high-scoring game. A 7-5 Brewers win would be a fair prediction.
The Cardinals look like they have the momentum right now and are likely to win Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead, but the Brewers have been long-overdue for a World Series championship.
This is by far the best team the franchise has ever had. Their players are there for these moments, and only these moments. As a result, this is their time and their year to shine.
The Brewers will win Game 5 by outslugging the Cardinals. Then, they will have their home field advantage again for the last two games of the series.
Look for Shaun Marcum, the Brewers' probable Game 6 starter, to finally get his first postseason win, despite struggling in his first two postseason starts. The saying is that "the third time is the charm," so there is no reason why this can't apply to Marcum. The Brewers will desperately need to pitch well.
The Cardinals will likely use Edwin Jackson in Game 6, and with the Brewers at home, look for Jackson to not pitch as well as Marcum this time around.
Then, in Game 7, the Brewers' ace Yovani Gallardo will be on the hill and he has always pitched very well at home. However, the Cardinals will have their own ace Chris Carpenter on the mound.
This one will likely be a low-scoring game, but the Brewers will have the momentum and find a way to win Game 7 and advance to the World Series, most likely against the Rangers.
Another fair prediction for Game 7 is that Ryan Braun, the favorite to win the National League MVP award, will hit a clutch home run to clinch the pennant, whether it be in the middle innings, late innings or in walk-off situation.
He would then definitely be a favorite to also win the NLCS MVP award, unless Gallardo's pitching is simply magnificent.