Los Angeles Dodgers (92-70, 3-1 playoffs, NL West champion) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (97-65, 3-2 playoffs, NL Central champion)
How they advanced
Dodgers defeated the NL East champion Atlanta Braves in four games in the National League Division Series round as Carl Crawford hit three home runs and Juan Uribe hit two, including a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of the clinching game at Dodger Stadium. Clayton Kershaw started in Games 1 and 4 and the Dodgers won both.
Cardinals defeated the NL wild-card game winner, the Pittsburgh Pirates, in a five-game series. Adam Wainwright won Games 1 and 5. The Cardinals are in the NLCS for the third consecutive season. They won in 2011 and went on to beat the Texas Rangers in the World Series. They lost in a seven-game NLCS in 2012 to the San Francisco Giants, who went on to win the World Series.
Season series: Dodgers won 4-3. The Cardinals won 2 of 3 in Dodger Stadium in May as Lance Lynn threw six shutout innings in a 7-0 victory. The Dodgers returned the favor by taking 3 of 4 in St. Louis in August, with Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jun Ryu and Ricky Nolasco each winning games. Joe Kelly beat Kershaw in the other matchup.
Playoffs history between teams
- 2009: The Dodgers swept the Cardinals in an NLDS.
- 2004: The Cardinals beat the Dodgers in four games in an NLDS.
- 1985: The Cardinals beat the Dodgers in the NLCS in six games.
- Game 1: Friday, Oct. 11, at St. Louis, time TBA (TBS)
- Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 12, at St. Louis, time TBA (TBS)
- Game 3: Monday, Oct. 14, at Los Angeles, time TBA (TBS)
- Game 4: Tuesday, Oct. 15, at Los Angeles, time TBA (TBS)
- Game 5: Wednesday, Oct. 16, at Los Angeles, time TBA (TBS), if necessary
- Game 6: Friday, Oct. 18, at St. Louis, time TBA (TBS), if necessary
- Game 7: Saturday, Oct. 19, at St. Louis, time TBA (TBS), if necessary
Dodgers projected lineup
- LF Carl Crawford (.283, 6 HR, 31 RBI, 15 SB -- .353, 3 HR in NLDS)
- 2B Mark Ellis (.270, 6 HR, 48 RBI)
- SS Hanley Ramirez (.345, 20 HR, 57 RBI -- batted .500 with 1 HR in NLDS)
- 1B Adrian Gonzalez (.293, 22 HR, 100 RBI -- .333, 1 HR in NLDS)
- RF Yasiel Puig (.319, 19 HR, 42 RBI -- batted .471 in NLDS)
- 3B Juan Uribe (.278, 12 HR, 50 RBI -- .375, 2 HR in NLDS)
- CF Skip Schumaker (.263, 2 HR, 30 RBI) or Andre Ethier (.272, 12 HR, 52 RBI)
- C A.J. Ellis (.238, 10 HR, 52 RBI)
Dodgers projected rotation
- RHP Zack Greinke (15-4, 2.63 ERA)
- LHP Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83 ERA)
- LHP Hyun-Jun Ryu (14-8, 3.00)
- RHP Ricky Nolasco (13-11, 3.70 ERA)
Relief specialists: RHP Kenley Jansen (4-3, 1.88 ERA), RHP Brian Wilson (2-1, 0.66 ERA), LHP J.P. Howell (4-1, 2.03 ERA), RHP Ronald Belisario (5-7, 3.97 ERA), RHP Chris Capuano (4-7, 3.26 ERA), LHP Paco Rodriguez (3-4, 2.32 ERA), RHP Chris Withrow (3-0, 2.60 ERA)
Cardinals projected lineup
- 2B Matt Carpenter (.318, 11 HR, 78 RBI -- 1 for 19 in NLDS)
- RF Carlos Beltran (.296, 24 HR, 84 RBI -- 2 HR in NLDS)
- LF Matt Holliday (.300, 22 HR, 94 RBI -- .300, 1 HR in NLDS)
- 1B Matt Adams (.284, 17 HR, 51 RBI -- .316, 1 HR in NLDS)
- C Yadier Molina (.319, 12 HR, 80 RBI -- .294, 1 HR in NLDS)
- CF Jon Jay (.276, 7 HR, 67 RBI)
- 3B David Freese (.262, 9 HR, 60 RBI - 1 HR in NLDS)
- SS Pete Kozma (.217, 1 HR, 35 RBI -- .400 in NLDS)
Cardinals projected rotation
- RHP Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69 ERA)
- RHP Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78 ERA)
- RHP Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94 ERA)
- RHP Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97 ERA) or RHP Shelby Miller (15-9, 3.06 ERA)
Relief specialists: RHP Edward Mujica (2-1, 2.78 ERA, 37 saves), RHP Trevor Rosenthal (2-4 2.63 ERA, 3 saves), LHP Kevin Siegrist (3-1, 0.45 ERA), RHP John Axford (7-7, 4.02 ERA combined Brewers and Cardinals), RHP Seth Maness (5-2, 2.32 ERA), LHP Randy Choate (2-1, 2.29 ERA), RHP Carlos Martinez (2-1, 5.08 ERA)
Inside the matchups
Hitting: Neither lineup is as strong as it could be, missing a key player each. The Dodgers' Matt Kemp is out for the season after shoulder surgery, a lost season for the L.A. center fielder. But midseason call-up Yasiel Puig more than made up the difference, and shortstop Hanley Ramirez has returned to his form that made him an All-Star with the Marlins and was the team's best hitter in the first round. Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford are coming off solid performances in the NLDS against the Braves as well. The Dodgers also could get Andre Ethier back in center field for the NLCS -- he was limited to pinch-hitting duties in the NLDS because of an ankle injury. The Cardinals are also missing one of their key pieces in Allen Craig, who hit .315 with 97 RBI during the season. But he was replaced well by Matt Adams in the NLDS, and he came through with a big home run in Game 5 against the Pirates. One big factor in the Cardinals' favor is their propensity for clutch hitting in the playoffs -- Carlos Beltran, David Freese and MVP candidate Yadier Molina are all proven performers in October. The Dodgers scored 4.01 runs per game and hit .264 as a team; the Cardinals averaged 4.83 runs and hit .269. Edge: Cardinals.
Bench: Daniel Descalso was 1 for 9 in the first-round series and was benched in favor of Kozma, but he is a solid defender who can play all over the infield. Not much pop off the bench anywhere on the Cardinals bench, however. The Dodgers have a veteran bat off the bench in Michael Young could play second base or third base or be the key pinch hitter. He has all sorts of playoff experience from his time with the Texas Rangers. Nick Punto is the Dodgers' version of Descalso, and Dee Gordon has plenty of speed for a late-inning boost. Edge: Dodgers.
Starting pitching: The Dodgers have two aces and their rotation in a better alignment heading into the NLDS. Because the Cardinals were taken to five games by the Pirates, ace Adam Wainwright was the Game 5 starter and threw a complete game, and he's likely in line to be a Game 3 starter (and perhaps Game 7). So with Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw on regular rest, Los Angeles should have the edge in the pitching matchups in the first two games at Busch Stadium. The Dodgers will have to figure out a way to beat Michael Wacha, the likely Game 2 starter who dominated the Pirates in an elimination game on the road. Wacha is likely to draw Kershaw, the 2011 NL Cy Young winner and front-runner for similar honors this season. The Dodgers will need a better start from Korean rookie Hyun-Jun Ryu, and Ricky Nolasco was skipped in the first round. There could be some rust there. So give the early edge to the Dodgers, and the middle-games edge to the Cardinals. So this series could be one for the road teams. The Dodgers' staff had a very good 3.25 ERA; the Cardinals an almost-as-good 3.43 ERA. Edge: Dodgers.
Bullpen: Both teams are pretty strong here, but the Cardinals are a bit deeper. They got better during the season with the acquisition of John Axford, a former NL saves champion for Milwaukee. He won't close, however -- that is Trevor Rosenthal's job at the moment, with team saves leader Edward Mujica out there as well. Lefty Kevin Siegrist has been great as well. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen came through in a one-run Game 4 against Atlanta, and the weird-bearded Brian Wilson is back in the postseason with the Dodgers after being the dominant closer for the World Series champion San Francisco Giants in 2011. Edge: Cardinals.
Why the Dodgers will win
They have two of the best pitchers in the game, and the Cardinals will have to find a way to beat either Kershaw or Grienke, two former Cy Young winners who anchor the L.A. staff. They have the No. 1 payroll in baseball and played like it in the first round, and no team was hotter for much of the season.
Why the Cardinals will win
They're one of the hottest teams in baseball, having gone 19-8 in September and winning two elimination games against the Pirates. When the Cardinals' backs are against the wall, they have a knack for coming through. If this series goes to seven games, and Wainwright is on the mound in Busch Stadium, it would be very hard to bet against them.
Cardinals in seven.