2011 NLDS Series Odds and Predictions – St Louis Cardinals vs Philadelphia Phillies Expert Picks and Vegas Series Price: Coming into the season, the Philadelphia Phillies were expected to be among the best teams in baseball. They didn’t disappoint, winning an MLB-best 102 games and returning to the postseason after being bounced in the NLCS one year ago. The St. Louis Cardinals aren’t exactly strangers to the postseason either, but early in September, the playoffs seemed like an afterthought. However, a late season surge coupled with an epic collapse from the Atlanta Braves allowed the Cardinals to steal the National League wild card spot on the final day of the regular season. Now, a showdown is set between two of the top franchises in the game today.
It’s impossible to break down the series without looking at the Phillies incredible starting rotation. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels all finished in the top six in the Nationa League in ERA, and Halladay and Lee finished second and third. If need be, the Phillies have the luxury of using only these three starters for the rest of the season. Most teams are happy with one ace-caliber pitcher, and Philadelphia essentially has one on the mound every single night. If momentum is truly only as good as the next day’s starting pitcher, it easy to understand how the Phillies one more games than any other team in baseball.
While the Phillies can boast the top pitching staff in baseball in terms of ERA, the Cardinals do have a sizeable advantage in terms of offensive production. St. Louis ranked fifth in both team batting average and runs scored. As he has been for more than a decade, the centerpiece of the offense in 2011 was first baseman Albert Pujols. He finished third in the NL with 37 home runs this season despite missing 15 games with an injury. Outfielder Matt Holiday provides adequate protection, and Pujols is one of the few hitters that is on a level playing field with the Phillies’ impressive staff.
Although Pujols gives the Cardinals a threat on offense, Philadelphia’s offense isn’t terrible either, and the St. Louis staff has been up and down throughout the year. Veterans Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse ran hot and cold, while young arm Jaime Garcia seemed to wear down in the later months, especially on the road. At their best, the Cardinals starters can compete with the Philadelphia arms, but there is no guarantee any of the St. Louis pitchers will be in top form. Not to mention the fact that the Cardinals’ bullpen has been a mess most of the season.
For the Phillies, the series will be about scoring just enough runs to allow their dominant starters to do their thing. First baseman Ryan Howard has been a reliable run producer, but shortstop Jimmy Rollins and outfielder Shane Victoriono haven’t gotten on base consistently, and second baseman Chase Utley still isn’t 100 percent. The X-factor for the Phillies’ lineup could be outfielder Hunter Pence. Since being acquired from the Houston Astros, Pence has been the top right-handed bat in the Philadelphia lineup. When he is swinging a hot bat, the Phillies’ offense reaches another level.
Last season, the Phillies had dominant pitching but were bounced from the playoffs because of a lack of offense. However, the Cardinals’ rotation doesn’t come close to matching the San Francisco Giants’ staff that silenced the Philadelphia bats. Pujols may have some moments at the plate, but Halladay, Lee and Hamels will likely control the rest of the St. Louis lineup. Meanwhile, Howard and Pence should be able to help push across enough runs for the Phillies to advance.
Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies Win in 4 Games
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