Only one Divisional Series saw each team win one of the first two games in the five-game set. While one team emerged with a 2-0 lead ahead of the travel day, Los Angeles and St. Louis leave Dodger Stadium tied 1-1 after each winning a one-run game. Adam Wainwright and Clayton Kershaw proved ineffective in a 10-9 Cardinals’ win in game one before the Dodgers responded with a 3-2 victory in game two behind a great effort from Zack Greinke.
Now the series heads to St. Louis, where John Lackey gets ready to pitch in the type of game the Cardinals acquired him for. He’ll oppose the left-hander from Korea, Hyun-Jin Ryu, who will make his first start in nearly a month after suffering from some shoulder problems. The Red Birds have opened as small favorites at home with a proven big-game pitcher on the mound.
When the Cardinals were willing to part with Joe Kelly and Allen Craig in late July, they knew they would receive a proven postseason pitcher in return in John Lackey. St. Louis got to see Lackey pitch his Red Sox team to a World Series clinching win first-hand in game six at Fenway Park last year. Always at his best in the biggest games, Lackey exploded onto the scene as a rookie in 2002 when he started – and won – game seven of the World Series that year for the Anaheim Angels against the mighty Barry Bonds the the San Francisco Giants. And he likens to someone like James Shields on the AL side with his uncanny ability to pitch the best when it matters the most. With the Dodgers’ lineup not hitting particularly well at this point in the series and Lackey’s good track record of late, (he’s allowed either one or two runs in seven of his last eight starts since getting shelled on Aug. 9) there’s a pretty darn good chance he throws a quality start Monday night in front of the home fans.
Meanwhile Hyun-Jin Ryu makes his first start since aggravating his shoulder on September 12 against the Giants when he could throw just a single inning. Ryu made a good start immediately returning from the DL earlier this year against the Mets, but this is a different animal. Ryu is a terrific talent, but there’s a whole lot of uncertainty in a game like this when he hasn’t pitched for about a month. Even if Ryu is his normal self in St. Louis, it’s still fair to play Lackey as a small favorite at home. With Ryu not guaranteed to be sharp early, Lackey seems like some good value here.
Free Pick: St. Louis (-107)
YTD: 39-27-3 +7.24