Sunday, October 9, 2011

NL Central Foes Ready for Battle

National League Championship Series Preview

When the St. Louis Cardinals meet the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series tonight don't expect a lot of pre-game hugging. These guys do not like each other.  The Brewers were the NL Central winners by six games over the Cardinals, but the teams split the season series winning nine games a piece.

Brewers starter Zach Greinke began tossing salvos 2 days before throwing the first pitch saying Cardinals hurler Chris Carpenter has "a phony attitude" among other things. Being rivals in the same division only raises the level of contempt. There were several incidents this season between the teams, including a bench clearing moment with Albert Pujols in the middle of the squabble. With the tension high already with a trip to the World Series at stake, don't be shocked if there are fireworks between players during the series.

On the field, each team was forced to shuffle rotations due to the use of their aces to close out their respective division series foes. The Brewers begin with Greinke and the Cardinals with Jaime Garcia, both very competent pitchers. Their aces Yovani Gallardo and Chris Carpenter are expected to pitch Game 3.

At the plate, the Brewers rely on the power of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder while the Cardinals counter with Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman. Matt Holliday should be on the roster for the Cardinals but is nursing an injured right hand.

Each team has a fine bullpen, though the Brewers may have a slight edge with two bonafide closers in Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford.

It will be interesting to see how the managers put their mark on the series. With each area being a close call, it could come down to how the managers handle the nuances of the game. One bad move could cost their team a game and the series.

Statistical Notes:
Greinke led all MLB starters with 10.5 K/9
Braun hit .225 BA with a .633 OPS vs. the Cardinals in the regular season
Fielder hit .237 with a .793 OPS vs Cards in the regular season
Pujols hit .250 with a .773 OPS vs. Brewers in the regular season
Berkman hit .196 with a .578 OPS vs. Brewers in the regular season

Prediction:
The Brewers will end up being just a bit better in all facets of the game. The Cardinals while playing valiantly at the end of the regular season and then in the division series, will once again come up short against the Brewers. Milwaukee in 7.

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

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