We notched an easy winner last night with plenty of runs crossing the plate early en route to the Royals series-clinching 8-3 win. Angels starter C.J. Wilson didn’t even make it out of the first inning before the Royals speed and bats chased him to the showers. James Shields wasn’t perfect, but he was good enough, turning in six innings with just two runs allowed.
As a result of the Royals and Orioles, the baseball schedule is a little lighter than fans and TV execs would have hoped. If the Giants and their ace Madison Baumgarner can handle their business at home tonight against Doug Fister and the Nats, then it will be just the Cards and Dodgers carrying the baseball banner for a few days.
So which one of them walks away with the pivotal Game Three win tonight? Let’s dig inside the numbers and look for a winning edge in tonight’s enormous matchup.
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Today’s Free Pick:
Los Angeles Dodgers at St. Louis Cardinals (Total: 7.5)
Hyun-Jin Ryu vs. John Lackey
Tonight presents an interesting situation from a wagering perspective; what do you expect to get from Ryu this evening? Both the team and he contend there is no ill-effect lingering from his shoulder injury, and I am inclined to believe them because WHY risk it in Game Three of the NLDS if you weren’t pretty sure he is OK. And if he IS OK, this is a guy who threw seven scoreless innings against these same Cardinals in last year’s NLCS.
But what if he isn’t OK? The Dodgers have some real middle relief holes so things could unravel if Ryu can’t answer the bell. I’m going to bank on the former.
St. Louis should be nervous tonight, but I think they might not be as anxious to see the Dodgers as most teams would be. They shut them out in two of three games at Busch Stadium in last year’s NLCS and have a venerable postseason veteran on the mound in John Lackey. He dominated his now-teammates in last year’s World Series. Can he do the same FOR them this year?
Lackey was acquired for exactly this spot; to deliver a big postseason pitching performance. I think he will deliver as planned. He should be well rested after being skipped in his final start to rest his arm. The layoff since September 24th could be a little risky, but I’m expecting the veteran, who assuming he lasts four innings tonight, will be the active leader in postseason innings pitched, will respod to the extra rest with renewed zip on his fastball.
These two teams have played a lot in the postseason so they are familiar with one another. Runs have been more scarce than one might expect given the respective lineups. Only two of their nine meetings have gone over 7.5 runs this season and only two of six went over in last year’s NLCS. That’s only 26.6%. I’ll stick with the trend and two good postseason pitchers tonight.