NLDS Preview

Like yesterday's ALDS quick view and predictions, I'm back today for the NLDS. One series starts today (Cards/Pads) and one tomorrow (Dodgers/Metropolitans). Here's the former and later we'll visit the latter.

Padres vs. Cardinals
A year or 2 ago, this matchup would have been a lot different. But this is 2006, and the Padres have home field advantage against the Central Division champs who stumbled and bumbled their way to a playoff berth only because the Astros could not continue their torrid September to the end. But the interesting part here is that maybe the Cardinals need to be the underdog. What have they done as the favorite? Sure, they made the World Series in 2004 versus the Red Sox, but they never had enough of anything- pitching, hitting, fielding- in that series. And they still don't. Chris Carpenter is a 1-man show when the Cards really need 3 Carpenters. The Padres will counter with aces Jake Peavy and Chris Young back-to-back and follow it up with playoff veteran David Wells (pending his latest aches and pains). Jeff Suppan and Jeff Weaver are not the answer in games 2 and 3.

Matchup to watch
This series will come down to execution. The Cardinals have the big bats that can turn games in a single inning. Led by Pujols, Edmonds, and Rolen, it seems like the Cards are always a HR away from turning the tide. But the Padres have youth and a deeper lineup top to bottom. The question is can they overcome the jitters and play the way they've played all season? Or do the vets from St. Louis prove their poise is the solution? I think the Padres, while young, have enough veteran calm in the dugout, like Piazza and Wells, mixed in to turn away any Cardinals rally in the late innings.

My Pick: Padres in 4.
Trevor Hoffman (this year's NL Cy Young winner?) is a much more solid closer than the Card's Braden Looper who's filling in for an inconsistent and injured Jason Isringhausen. You've got to ask yourself, if Looper was the guy why did St. Louis stick it out with "Tater Ball" Izzy for so long this year?

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