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.
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
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
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 Lawrence, Adam 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
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
Over the course of the 2005 campaign, the heart of the
Cardinal order was rock solid against
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
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,
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
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
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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