Cards-Padres NLDS Predictions – Scout Staff

The writers from www.thestlcardinals.com offer up their completely unbiased views of how and why the NLDS will go the Cardinals' way.

It is easy to assume that the only MLB squad with 100 wins this season should be heavily favored against the division champ with the fewest wins ever. That is one big reason why ESPN is televising NLDS Games One and Two during the afternoon. While the Padres are a better team than their won-loss record indicates, they are beatable, say our staff.

 

Here we share our beliefs of what will happen during the National League Division Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Diego Padres starting in Busch Stadium on Tuesday.

 

Brian Walton – Cards in four

 

The Cardinals have thrived during 2005 due to pitching and defense. Currently, the starting staff seems shaky and the pen looks vulnerable, especially from the left side. The outfield defense appears tentative, with Reggie Sanders playing gingerly after coming back from a broken leg, Larry Walker a step or two slower than his past Gold Glove capability and Jim Edmonds hampered by a shoulder strain.

 

However, the Cardinals will win the 2005 NLDS precisely because of the return of Sanders and Walker. The offense scored 34 runs in the final four games of the season because those two joined Albert Pujols and Edmonds as feared bats in the Redbirds' lineup. That combined production should be enough to power the Cards through this series in four games.

 

When the offense is clicking, the pitching can give up 24 runs like they did over the last four games and still win three of four, just like they did over that same stretch.

 

In the other match-up, looking at the teams' respective strengths, I think the Braves' hitting will eventually shade the Astros' pitching, but it will be an extremely close five-game series.

 

Ray Mileur – Cards in four or five

 

The Cardinals are clear favorites to return to the World Series. That given, the road to the fall classic will not be easy.  The San Diego Padres won four of seven from St. Louis, including winning three of four in St. Louis, and they also beat the Atlanta Braves five times out of six this season.

 

The Padres are coming off a final week with a 5-2 record, where their pitching staff had a 1.94 ERA over the last five games.  Starting pitchers Jake Peavy, Woody Williams, Brian LawrenceAdam Eaton and Pedro Astacio can be very tough in a short series.  Peavy is slated for game one and Astacio for game two.

 

The Padres lack the offensive production to be a threat in a long series, ranking 25th in MLB batting average and 25th in MLB home runs and 27th in MLB runs scored.  The Cardinals should be able to win the first round against the Padres in four or five games, but a sweep is unlikely.

 

I give the Astros a slight edge over Atlanta.

 

Rex Duncan – Cards in four

 

With the Cardinals heavily favored to defeat the Padres, one need only be reminded of the outcome of the early June series when the Padres took three of four from the Cardinals at San Diego.  Favored – yes.  Pushover – no way.

 

Over the course of the 2005 campaign, the heart of the Cardinal order was rock solid against San Diego.  Albert Pujols(.385), Jim Edmonds (.333), Larry Walker (.417), and Reggie Sanders (.400), and Abraham Nunez (.412) feasted on Padres pitching albeit in limited appearances.  The linchpin to the success of the offense, though, will be Edmonds.  If Jim Edmonds hits well in a clean-up role, he protects Pujols and also sets up the torrid-hitting Larry Walker and Reggie Sanders.  Jimmy Ballgame struggled during the regular season.  The Cardinals really need him to step up and have a great offensive series.

 

I'm less worried about the starting pitching than others, Matt Morris aside.  Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder, and Jeff Suppan will be solid enough against a relatively light hitting Padres offense.  My concern focuses now on the bullpen.  Losing Al Reyes could loom large with two possible effects.  The first is that the weak performance of the struggling Ray King is magnified.  The other effect is the necessity of Jason Marquis being effective in middle relief.  Look for Cal Eldred to pick up more of that load, too.

 

While the Padres' offense wasn't as comparably prolific against the Cardinals, they have two hitters – Brian Giles and ex-Cardinal Mark Sweeney – who enjoyed particular success against the Redbirds.  Giles matched Walker's .417 average while Sweeney hit .385.  Both hit for power and average and can make a bad pitch leave the yard in a heart beat. 

 

Overall, the Cardinals seem to outman the Padres and are clearly favored to win this series, but it will be neither easy nor boring.  The Cardinals are the king of the hill this year, and they will be dealing with a team that would love to knock them off.

 

Cardinals in four with Matt taking the loss.

 

Joe Mammy – Cards in four

 

First, home field throughout the playoffs will be huge.  The '04 Cards were road warriors but ended up undefeated at home through the NLCS and I suspect the '05 Cards will follow in their footsteps.  Chris Carpenter might not be sharp, but should be enough to take on Jake Peavy behind the full A-lineup with Pujols, Walker, Edmonds and the suddenly freakish Reggie Sanders.  Throw in the two-headed double play monster known as Eckstein and Grudzielanek and it's hard not to like the Cardinals against the barely over .500 Padres.

 

Suppan should show up as clutch as ever—he's been the sleeper success in the rotation as of late and like last year the opponents aren't going to see him coming.  The status of Ray King and the loss of Al Reyes could be a cause for concern, especially since Tony La Russa seems to magically rediscover the early hook during the playoffs.  Anybody know of a lefty specialist looking for a month of work?

 

Cards in 4.

 

Pete Khazen – Cards in five

 

With the NL Wild Card coming down to the last game of the season, most Card fans were hoping for the Astros to take the title. Thinking a team struggling to finish at .500 would be a slam-dunk in the first round, they wanted San Diego as their opponent. Well, they should have been more careful about what they wished for. 

 

The Padres aren't going to be a walk in the park. Jake Peavy (13-7, 2.88) is one of the top young pitchers in the league, and he took it to the Cards in his lone start against them earlier in the season. Brian Giles, who moved out to San Diego last season in search of greener pastures is finally in the playoffs and could be a force for Cardinal pitchers to deal with. In his seven games against the Cards, he's batting .417 with 2 HRs, 9 RBIs, and 7 BBs. But Giles is just one man, and the Cards are definitely loaded with Albert Pujols, Larry Walker, and Reggie Sanders, all who have two homers against the Padres this season and in head-to-head stats are all batting well over .300.  And don't forget about Abraham Nunez, who could be a sleeping X factor. Nunez likes to feast on San Diego pitching, evidenced by a .412 batting average and 13 total bases in 5 games.

 

The series will feature two of the league's premier closers in Jason Isringhausen and Trevor Hoffman, who have 38 and 42 saves, respectively. But both of these clubs also have a knack for coming from behind late in the game, so look for both Hoffman and Isringhausen to blow save opportunities in a nail-biter of a series. Yes, the Padres might have struggled in the second half of the season, but they won two huge games against the Giants when their backs were against the wall. With Dave Roberts leading the way, expect them to fight until the end. That will leave ex-Cardinal Woody Williams taking the stage in Game Five at Busch Stadium. Card fans want this one to end in four or less. Even with home field advantage, anything can happen in Game Five, and Woody Williams just might be the man to make it happen.

 

Khazen's prediction: Cards 3-2

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