We have two teams who probably think they should be in a little better position than they are right now. The Dodgers have a very talented, very deep team, and despite a ton of injuries, especially to the pitching staff, they have had Clayton Kershaw for most of the season, and still sit behind the Giants in the West and hardly have a commanding lead in the wild card. The Cardinals have vastly underperformed their underlying statistics and could be 10 games better with a little bit of luck. The Cardinals should destroy the Dodgers.
The Dodgers are known for their massive payroll, but on the position player side, their best players are the ones making the least. Corey Seager, the Dodgers' 22-year-old shortstop, while not hitting as well as Cardinals rookie Aledmys Diaz, does have 17 homers and the inside track to rookie of the year in the National League. Joc Pederson, who slumped badly down the stretch last season, has rebounded and put up a 111 wRC+ while playing out in center field.
Yasmani Grandal has been slightly above average with the bat as the Dodgers primary catcher. Justin Turner has been the team's second-best hitter behind Seager. Combined, those four players make up only around $9 million of the Dodgers $200+ million payroll. Adrian Gonzalez has struggled this season. Yasiel Puig has been injured and inconsistent. Carl Crawford is gone. Andre Ethier is on the 60-day disabled list. Chase Utley has been solid playing second base while Howie Kendrick has done the same at multiple positions. Scott Van Slyke is likely to play some this series.
On the pitching side, the entire rotation schedule was listed as TBD just a few days ago with Kershaw's return shelved, and the health of the available pitcher's in constant flux. Starting tonight is Brandon McCarthy. In addition to being very good on Twitter, McCarthy is a very good pitcher, albeit one who has made just three starts this season. In 16 innings, McCarthy has 22 strikeouts and just four walks.Those games have been against the Rockies, Diamondbacks, and Padres, but all three of those teams are in the major leagues. He is the most successful example of a pitcher who has suffered the same scapular injury that caused Michael Wacha's shutdown back in 2014. Coincidentally, those two will face off this evening.
On Satruday, Kenta Maeda will pitch for the Dodgers. Maeda signed an unusual incentive-laden contract witht he Dodgers that rewards him for innings due to apparently poor medicals that scared other teams off. Somewhat ironically given the rest of the Dodgers rotation this year, Maeda has now made 19 starts and pitched more than 100 innings. He has pitched very well with a 26% strikeout rate, a 7% walk rate, a 3.25 ERA and a 3.43 FIP. Maeda throws his slider more than any single pitch, but also features two fastballs that hit around 90 mph, as well as a curve and an occasional change. The righty will face off against Mike "The Raptor" Leake, who can shoot for a third straight 10 K, 0 BB walk game, although I wouldn't count on it.
On Sunday, Scott Kazmir will take the mound for Los Angeles. The lefty has been a slightly below-average innings eater for the Dodgers this season. He has posted solid strikeout numbers, but has been a bit homer-prone keeping his numbers a bit off from where he'd like them to be. Kazmir has been hit or miss all season, but struck out 8 with no walks in his last start against the Nationals. Tyler Lyons, who is attractive, will likely pitch for the Cardinals.
Tonight's game is at 7:15 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest.
Saturday's game is at 6:15 pm CT and will air on FOX Sports Midwest.
Sunday's game is at 7:09 pm CT and will air on ESPN.