By Ken Boehlke
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Series Price – STL (+150) LAD (-170)
NL Pennant – STL (+280) LAD (+180)
World Series – STL (+800) LAD (+450)
This series will be a tale of two ends of the starting pitching rotations. Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright are both superstars, and Lance Lynn and Zack Greinke are both very good. But then there’s a bit of a drop off. Winning the games with the lesser starting pitchers will go a long way in determining who wins this very competitive series.
The lineups would have to cause almost anyone to lean towards the Dodgers when it comes to Games 3 and 4. The moment Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp starting playing like the All-Stars again is the moment it became impossible to pick against the Dodgers in a five game series. With Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez all becoming less important, the Los Angeles lineup becomes a gauntlet that even Wainwright and Lynn will have a tough time getting through.
But then again, this is the St. Louis Cardinals, the team that no matter how good you think they are always finds a way to go just one step further. Even in the years when they have “down” seasons, they still wind up in the NLCS or beyond. The reason for this, usually, is because they find a hidden gem in their endless stable of arms that comes on in a big way. Wainwright has played the role, Lynn has, and last year it was Michael Wacha. However, this year they might be asking too much. It’ll have to be John Lackey or Shelby Miller. If you can reasonably predict dominance out of either of those two, pick St. Louis, but it’s just not worth the risk.
If there is going to be a surprise star on the Cardinals, it’ll be Randal Grichuk. The 23-year-old center fielder has been on a tear over the last month, and he could be the reason the Cardinals stay in this series. They’ll obviously need Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina to come up big but it’ll take a player like Grichuk to shoulder a majority of the load if they are going to pull the upset.
Assuming health, the Cardinals will either have to beat Kershaw once or win every game in which he does not pitch. Neither seems terribly likely, yet the -170 price indicates the series could go either way (it’s equivalent to a football game with a three point spread). This looks like the series with the most value because the best player in the National League plays the most crucial position in a short series, number one starting pitcher. Bank on Kershaw to get the job done, and just hope the magical Cardinals don’t show up like they always do and beat you.
Pick: Los Angeles Dodgers (-170)