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NLDS: What We've Learned

by Photo of Andrew Lontos

After two games in each series, here’s what we have figured out about all four playoff teams.

NLDS: What We've Learned

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Phillies: Series tied 1-1

Pitching: The Phillies had the pitching advantage going into the series with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt leading their rotation. While the Cardinals' starters haven't pitched well, Philadelphia has to be less than thrilled with their pitchers' performances thus far. Halladay gave up a three-run home run to Lance Berkman in the first inning of Game 1, but retired the last 21 batters he faced and didn't allow a baserunner after a second inning single. While Halladay was able to settle down after a rough start, Lee couldn't do the same in Game 2. He struggled with command all night, giving up 12 hits and five runs over six innings.

Game 1 starter Kyle Lohse pitched three shutout innings before giving up a run in the fourth and falling apart from there. He was chased with one out in the sixth after giving up home runs to Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez. He gave up six runs, five earned, and got the loss. Carpenter was not much better in Game 2. He pitched three innings and gave up four runs before Tony LaRussa gave him the hook. Luckily for St. Louis, their bullpen pitched an outstanding six shutout innings in the come from behind win.

If you told the Cardinals that they would have scored eight runs off Halladay and Lee in Games 1 and 2, they surely would have taken it. The problem is that their starters gave up nine. In Game 3, Cole Hamels will pitch against Jaime Garcia. Hamels has the proven track record in the regular season and playoffs, but Garcia has been great at home this year. The second-year lefty went 9-4 with a 2.55 ERA in St. Louis in 2011. In Game 4, Roy Oswalt will square off against Edwin Jackson. Oswalt battled injuries this year, but finished the season strongly and is a great option for Game 4. Jackson started 12 games and had a 3.58 ERA for the Cardinals after being traded from the White Sox.

Hitting: After scoring only one run through the first five innings of the series, the Phillies' bats came alive. Every Philadelphia hitter 1-6 had at least two hits in Game 1 except for Ryan Howard, who homered and drove in four runs. They finished with 11 runs and scored ten in their final three at bats. Philadelphia continued their hitting prowess in the beginning of Game 2, scoring four runs in the first two innings. After that, however, they went scoreless for the last seven innings. Only Jimmy Rollins had a multiple-hit game.

The Cardinals scored three runs in the first inning and three runs in the ninth inning of Game 1. The final three runs came in garbage time when they were already down 11-3. The St. Louis bats were silent in the middle seven innings, thanks largely to Halladay's brilliance. Game 2 didn't start out well for their offense, but they were finally able to break through against Lee and got clutch hits late. Albert Pujols got the game winning hit in the seventh inning.

The Phillies outscored the Cardinals 15-11, but the series is tied and St. Louis now has home field advantage. Pujols has three hits in the two games, including the game-winner in Game 2, but he'll need to carry the offense if the Cardinals are going to beat the Phillies' aces. Not only did Halladay shutdown their bats for seven innings, but Philadelphia's offense showed signs of dominance. That's scary for St. Louis, because the Phillies' bats don't even have to be too good with their great pitching staff.

Updated Prediction: Tony LaRussa breaks his own records of: Most Annoying Pitching Change, Most Pitching Changes in a Game, Most Pitching Changes in an Inning, and Most Unnecessary Double Switch. Also, Phillies in 5.

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers: Milwaukee leads 2-0

Pitching: The Brewers may not have an ace, but they have three very solid pitchers. Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, and Shaun Marcum are all great "number two" options. Gallardo was brilliant in Game 1, pitching eight innings, giving up one run and striking out nine. He gave up the lone run via a lead off Ryan Roberts home run in the eighth, but struck out the next (and his last) three batters, finishing off a great performance. Greinke wasn't as good in Game 2, only lasting five innings and giving up four runs. But his bullpen picked him up, pitching four shutout innings. Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford looked great at the end of the bullpen.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have not gotten the pitching that they needed to win this series. Ian Kennedy started off very strong, mixing up speeds and location nicely. He couldn't get through the seventh inning though, as Prince Fielder hit a two-run home run off of him. Kennedy gave up four runs on the night. Daniel Hudson started Game 2, and the Brewers' bats got to him as well. He was only able to get one out in the sixth inning and gave up five runs on the night. Brad Ziegler came in but was not able to get an out and gave up four earned runs.

The Diamondbacks had the tough task of quieting Milwaukee's big bats. Kennedy and Hudson failed to do so, and it will likely cost them the series. The Brewers scored 13 runs in the first two games, which was more than enough for their pitchers. Gallardo pitched like an ace and Hudson couldn't capitalize on Greinke's mediocre outing. Now facing elimination, the Diamondbacks will send rookie Josh Collmenter on the mound against veteran Shaun Marcum. If Game 4 is necessary, Joe Saunders will matchup against Randy Wolf.

Hitting: Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun have been as good as advertised so far. Braun went 3-4 in each game and combined the two are 9-16, with two home runs, and six runs batted in. They've dominated the series and are proving that they are indeed the best 3-4 hitting combination in baseball. Yuniesky Betancourt and Rickie Weeks each have a triple as well. In total, the Brewers have banged out 21 hits in the first two games. 

The Diamondbacks got off to a brutal start in Game 1 of the series. They only managed four hits (three singles) against Gallardo and didn't score until the eighth inning. They faired better in Game 2 against Greinke by getting 10 hits and scoring four runs, but they couldn't keep up with Milwaukee. Justin Upton hit a game-tying home run, but overall he's just 2-9 in the series. He needed to have a huge series to carry Arizona into the NLCS, but it just hasn't happened so far.

The Brewers have outscored the Diamondbacks 13-5 in the first two games. Neither game has been very close at the end, as Arizona's bats have gone stretches without producing. Aaron Hill and Chris Young both got three hits in Game 2, so there's a chance that their lineup could turn it around. But is it too late? Is it enough? The Diamondbacks have no answer for Fielder and Braun, and really that's the biggest story so far.

Updated Prediction: Down 2-0, my original prediction of Brewers in 4 may have been too generous to Arizona. This series could easily end tonight. In fairness, the Diamondbacks played too well all year to come up short in three straight games. Even if they snatch Game 3 tonight at home, this series is not going back to Milwaukee. Let's stick with Brewers in 4.

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