Posted by Kevin Durso
The Phillies had a choice, play the Cardinals and get the franchise record, and manager record for Charlie Manuel, or fold for the Braves and see what a one-game playoff got you. The Phillies grabbed the record, and now they get the Cardinals in the NLDS.
The St. Louis Cardinals were baseball's hottest team in September. They finished their season with an 18-8 month, but won 16 of their last 21. They are a red hot team, but as the month drew to a close, they proved to be beatable. They narrowly escaped two close games against the Cubs. They also dropped an extra-inning game to the Astros earlier this week. With the right stuff, you can beat this team.
Looking at the Cardinals' offense, there are three threats. One of them might not even be playing. Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman have been the driving forces of this offense.
Pujols finished the season hitting .299 with 37 home runs and 99 RBIs. He also overcame a wrist injury in mid-July, that the Cardinals survived.
Berkman had MVP numbers in the first half before cooling a bit. Still, he finished with a .301 average with 31 home runs and 94 RBIs.
The third guy is Matt Holliday, who has played just four games since September 13, is still a questionable piece to the Cardinals' lineup. If he plays, add in one more threat – Holliday hit .296 with 22 home runs and 75 RBIs. If he doesn't, the Phillies catch a break.
Regardless, the Cardinals also add in Allen Craig, Rafael Furcal, Jon Jay, Ryan Theriot, Yadier Molina, and more with their potent offense. Furcal's status is questionable for the series as well, but anything goes in the Postseason.
From a pitching standpoint, the Cardinals offer ace Chris Carpenter, but he just pitched the Cardinals into the Postseason with a two-hitter. His next start will likely be Game 3 of this series. Jaime Garcia is another threat, but rumor has it that he won't start until Game 4. Game 1 will feature Kyle Lohse. Game 2's starter is currently Edwin Jackson. Either way, the starting pitching is only as good as the distance they take the Cardinals before turning games over to the shaky bullpen, which lacks a true closer. With that, here's the predictions of all the Philliedelphia writers.
Kevin Durso: Phillies in 4
The Phillies are sending their two best out against two average names. A few runs early to calm the nerves and put all the pressure on the Cardinals should do the trick. You can forget the past. Losing six of nine to the Cardinals this season isn't the same. Chase Utley was out for the two-game series in May. The Phillies took two of three from the Cardinals in a June series in St. Louis. The two teams' most recent meeting was just two weeks ago, where the Cardinals took three of four. That series featured no Ryan Howard for three games, no Hunter Pence for two games, and one game we can call the division hangover. Things are different this time around.
The Phillies right away have the pitching edge. The offense will be the key. A few runs and around seven solid innings from the starter could get the Phillies right where they want to be. Add in home field for Games 1 and 2 and there's no doubt the Phillies should end the weekend just a win away from their fourth straight trip to the NLCS. The Phillies won't take it immediately with Carpenter pitching, but expect them to come back the next day with the clincher.
Adam Gonsiewski: Phillies in 4
The Phillies have the better starting pitching; the Cardinals have a better offense. Based on this, I think that every game will be close when the starters exit the game, making this a battle of the bullpens. If the Phillies can keep it close through seven, they will take advantage of a weak Cardinals' bullpen late in games. The last six outs of a game are even tougher to come by in Postseason play, and this works in the Phils' favor.
Danielle Wilson: Phillies in 3
The Cardinals are missing two big pieces to the lineup – Matt Holliday and Rafael Furcal, both of whom have hit pretty well against the Phils' starters this season, especially Cliff Lee, the Game 2 starter. Without them, the Cardinals should see a decrease in runs scored, which is huge for the Phillies, who tend to come up short at times. As long as Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels pitch as well as they have all season, and the lineup hits as well as they did against the Braves, the NLDS should be smooth sailing.
Stephen Gallo: Phillies in 5
I see a close, back-and-forth series. The Cardinals' pitching lines up pretty good against the Phils, but nothing compares to this Phillies' rotation. The Phils may not have the best numbers against the Cards' staff, but Hunter Pence is familiar with their staff and will lead this team to a series victory. The Phillies did the Cardinals a huge favor by sweeping the Braves to end the regular season. Expect them to take that favor right back by ending the Cardinals' season.
Christina Angelos: Phillies in 4
St. Louis doesn't have the pitching to keep up with Philadelphia's big 4 aces: Halladay, Lee, Hamels (even if Oswalt is not used in this series). As for the bullpens, I believe the Phillies do have an advantage. The Cardinals' bullpen is not known for being one of the best in the National League. Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman give the Cardinals a possible advantage offensively, but they will be without Holliday and Furcal. However, the Phillies are not the same offense as they once were, but they are known for coming back in games. And the Phillies have advantage of being capable with speed on the bases. The Cardinals are not known for the stealing bases – they have stolen fewer bases than any club – but they also have an MLB-low success rate of 59 perfect—worst than any team.
Frank Klose: Cardinals in 3
The Phillies can't beat them.
This is a joke. Many talked about how the Phillies should let the Braves beat them so they would not have to face the Cardinals. However, if the Phillies really are the best team, no team should scare them. I can easily see Halladay and Lee winning the first two home games. I'm a little nervous about Cole Hamels in game three; down the stretch he was not his former dominant self. However, Roy Oswalt should pick them up in Game 4. Matt Holliday is out of the lineup, at least for now, and the Phillies' starting pitching should take care of the offense. Phillies in 4.