Tom Verducci Have you noticed teams are attacking Manny Ramirez with fastballs -- with first base open? Los Angeles can't win with Ramirez hitting like this: .152 in his last 12 games with no home runs. The Dodgers have played 19 straight games without a home run from Ramirez in a win. CARDINALS IN FOUR.
Jon Heyman The Dodgers' rotation isn't overwhelming anyone, while the Cardinals' one-two punch is clearly the best in the playoffs. However, a close series will often come down to the bullpens, and the Dodgers' 'pen is the best this October. Plus, their young nucleus has just enough moxie to get it done. DODGERS IN FIVE.
Ted Keith No team has a more impressive rotation lined up than the Cardinals, who will open on the road but get to throw Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, possibly the top two pitchers in the Cy Young voting, back-to-back in Games 1 and 2, and still bring back a highly effective Joel Pineiro in Game 3. Albert Pujols breaks out of his late-season funk, but Manny Ramirez doesn't, and the Cardinals advance. CARDINALS IN FIVE.
Joe Posnanski St. Louis limped to the finish line, but we've seen that before. Combination of Albert Pujols hitting and the 1-2 punch of AdamWainwright and Chris Carpenter is too tough. CARDINALS IN FOUR.
Joe Lemire Unless the sleeping slugger, Manny Ramirez, awakes, the Dodgers' offense won't be strong enough to contend with a pair of Cy Young frontrunners, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. CARDINALS IN FIVE.
David Sabino The Dodgers were baseball's best team over the first half of the season but stumbled at the end, barely edging out the streaking Rockies for the division title. Even with Manny Ramirez anchoring L.A.'s lineup, the Cardinals have too much pitching with the top two NL Cy Young Award candidates, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright ready to pitch four of the five games of the series. CARDINALS IN FOUR.
Ben Reiter The Cardinals could get three or four starts from Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, and that will leave the Dodgers wishing they'd been matched up with the Phillies instead. CARDINALS IN FIVE.
Jonah Freedman With the best managers in the NL matching wits, this will be a better series than most think. But the Dodgers have too many question marks entering the postseason. Even if the bats wake up, it's hard to see them matching up on the mound against Carpenter and Wainwright. Still, no one expected L.A. to get past the Cubs last year, either. CARDINALS IN FIVE.
Cliff Corcoran I've doubted both teams all season, and both come limping into the playoffs, the Cardinals having won just seven of their last 20, the Dodgers having won four of their last 10 (and narrowly avoided losing the division they've led since April 15). I'd love to see Joe Torre's Dodgers face the Yankees in the World Series, but L.A.'s rotation is in flux, with Randy Wolf starting Game 1 and Vicente Padilla and Jon Garland in the mix for Games 3 and 4. Meanwhile, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright have combined for a 1.50 ERA in four starts against the Dodgers this year, and John Smoltz lurks in the bullpen as St. Louis's potential Game 4 starter. That kind of starting pitching supported by the 3-4 punch of soon-to-be 2009 NL MVP Albert Pujols and impending hecta-millionaire Matt Holliday (.353/.415/.603 as a Cardinal) should push Tony La Russa's 13th playoff entry past his predecessor's 15th. CARDINALS IN FIVE.
Lee Jenkins It's been said a million times, but to win these short series, you need a couple premier starters. The Dodgers don't have any. CARDINALS IN FOUR.
Albert Chen Yes, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright are the field's most devastating starting duo (with a 1.50 ERA in 30 innings against L.A. this year), but I also think the Cards 'pen is ready for October's cauldron. Chad Billingsley? Not so much. CARDINALS IN FIVE.
Melissa Segura Carpenter and Wainwright. Need I say more? CARDINALS IN FOUR.
Phillies vs. Rockies
Tom Verducci The Philadelphia bullpen is full of uncertainty, making for a wild series full of comebacks. The Phillies need as many innings from left-handers as possible. PHILLIES IN FIVE.
Jon Heyman With all the angst of the Phillies' relief woes, let's not forget they still have a very gifted staff and by far the best core of everyday players in the National League. The Rockies were the best team in the NL in the second half, so this is little better than a coin flip. PHILLIES IN FIVE.
Ted Keith Shades of 2007? The rolling Rockies get a chance to knock off the Phils for the second time in three years. Their starting pitching has been surprisingly effective, as has closer Huston Street, who is healthy again after missing time earlier this month. Potential sleeper star: Yorvit Torrealba, who excelled with men on base all year long. ROCKIES IN FIVE.
Joe Posnanski Rockies have eight guys who hit double-digit home runs, and Ubaldo Jimenez had a breakout year. But with Jorge De La Rosa out, Phillies starting pitching is too tough. How will Phillies bullpen hold up? PHILLIES IN FIVE.
Joe Lemire No one gets hotter than the Colorado Rockies (see Sept/Oct 2007; June 2009; Sept. 2009), but in the battle of NL's top two scoring offenses, the defending World Series champion Phillies win with better starting pitching. PHILLIES IN FIVE.
David Sabino On paper, the defending champions should roll over the Rockies with an advantage at six of the eight positions and an experienced pitching staff littered with Cy Young Awards. But it's Colorado, led by the heart and soul, Troy Tulowitzki, that has been the hottest team in the game and has the intangibles to squeak into the next round. ROCKIES IN FIVE.
Ben Reiter The Phillies can throw three very good lefties -- Hamels, Lee and Happ -- against the Rockies, and the Rockies don't hit southpaws well (.253). But it seems to be '07 all over again for Colorado, and that team swept away the Phils in the NLDS. ROCKIES IN FOUR.
Jonah Freedman Rematch of '07 NLDS may be the most compelling of the playoffs. Rox know better than anyone that when they get on a roll, they stay on a roll. One through eight, they can do damage. They'll get to the defending champs' rotation, which, despite the pickups of Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez, is more vulnerable than last year. ROCKIES IN FIVE.
Cliff Corcoran The Phillies have the better lineup, the better rotation (particularly if they're smart enough to start excellent left-handed rookie J.A. Happ against the lefty-leaning Colorado lineup), and, unlike in 2007, superior team defense. Still, I could see a random bad starting pitching performance, the Phillies' bullpen and/or a Charlie Manuel head-scratcher handing a game or two to the Rockies before the Phillies move on. PHILLIES IN FIVE.
Lee Jenkins For the same reason the Dodgers should be worried, the Phillies should be confident. Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee carry them through the first round. PHILLIES IN FOUR.
Albert Chen A prediction: Ubaldo Jimenez emerges as an October star after winning a Game 5 in Philly. The Phillies bullpen -- and Brad Lidge's psyche -- is a big problem for the defending champs. Also, don't count on Cole Hamels suddenly rediscovering his fastball. ROCKIES IN FIVE.
Melissa Segura Though the toughest series to call, the Rockies have struggled against left-handed starters this year -- something the Phillies have in abundance. PHILLIES IN FIVE.
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