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Both NL division series begin Thursday

Oct 3, 2013, 2:12 PM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

PITTSBURGH PIRATES (94-68) vs. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (97-65)

Where: Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Mo.
Gametime: 5:00 p.m.
TV: TBS
Radio: ESPN Radio
Weather: Partly cloudy, 86 degrees, wind 15 mph
Starting pitchers: PIT – A.J. Burnett (10-11, 3.30) / STL – Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94)

Okay, enough of this one-game playoff stuff, now it’s time for the real postseason to start. This evening the Pirates and Cardinals kick off a day that will see both National League Division Series commence, the first game featuring two veterans with World Series rings and plenty of experience pitching in the playoffs.

After Francisco Liriano helped the Pirates advance past the NL Wild Card round, A.J. Burnett will now take over in his eighth career postseason start. He has a bit of a troubled history in October, holding a 5.08 ERA through 39 career innings in the playoffs, all as a member of the New York Yankees. The 36-year-old has faced the Cardinals six times already this year, posting a 3-1 record with a 3.67 ERA.

Pitching for the Cardinals is a right-hander with a much better history in the playoffs. Adam Wainwright has a 2.48 ERA through 13 postseason appearances, and 42 strikeouts in 32 2/3 innings. He has a 3.00 ERA across 21 total innings against Pittsburgh this season after facing them in three starts.

LOS ANGELES DODGERS (92-70) vs. ATLANTA BRAVES (96-66)

Where: Turner Field in Atlanta, Ga.
Gametime: 8:00 p.m.
TV: TBS
Radio: ESPN Radio
Weather: Partly cloudy, 77 degrees, wind 4 mph
Starting pitchers: LAD – Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83) / ATL – Kris Medlen (15-12, 3.11)

The 2013 MLB playoffs figure to be exciting with out a true World Series favorite, but no division series has quite the buzz surrounding a pitching matchup as this one. Mainly it’s because Clayton Kershaw – the obvious choice for NL Cy Young – is taking the mound. But his counterpart, September’s NL Pitcher of the Month Kris Medlen, is no slouch either.

Kershaw has made six postseason starts before and holds an ugly 5.87 ERA. But he hasn’t pitched in the playoffs since 2009 and has since developed into one of the game’s best pitchers.

Medlen started for the Braves in last year’s NL Wild Card game and took the loss despite allowing just two earned runs through 6 1/3 innings. Five total runs were scored off Medlen in that game, but three were unearned due to defensive miscues by his teammates.

The Braves won five of the teams’ seven matchups this season and outscored the Dodgers 27-17 in those games. They haven’t played since May and that was before the Dodgers became one of the best teams in the league. That was also before some guy named Yasiel Puig made his debut in June.

  1. tcostant - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    Looks like the Dodgers will win this series is 4 games or less. The rest are tossups.

  2. NatsLady - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:19 PM

    GO Dodgers. Take ‘em in three.

  3. Faraz Shaikh - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    braves faced dodgers in June, puig’s second series where he had 8 hits in 17 PA. they split that 2-2. kershaw’s numbers against braves are .133 /.191 /.217 in 89 PA where Uggla has contributed 13 PA with a slashline of .083/ .154/ .083.

  4. Faraz Shaikh - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    medlen also has great overall stats against dodgers, except hanley and ethier.

    • tcostant - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:44 PM

      Problem with Medlem is he faces off vs. Kershaw and he is unlikely to out pitch him. He could pitch great and still loss 2-0 or 2-1.

      • jd - Oct 3, 2013 at 2:53 PM

        My predictions:

        LA over Atlanta in 5.
        St.Louis over Pitt in 4.
        Tampa over Boston in 5
        Oakland over Detroit in 5.

        St.Louis over LA in 5
        Tampa over Oakland in 7

        St.Louis over Tamps in 6.

        But then again is all a crap shoot. The trick is getting into the tournament.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:05 PM

        still medlen is pretty hot coming in. and starting at home, I think odds favor braves more.

      • NatsLady - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:14 PM

        I don’t think Tampa will beat Boston. I don’t remember the FA situation, but I do remember that I always liked Uehara. Would love to have him instead of Soriano. But, there you are, go with what we have.

  5. langleyclub - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:04 PM

    Not sure why the Dodgers are such heavy favorites over Atlant. Atlanta had the better record, and as a result, they have they host the series. The Braves had the best home record in baseball (56-25), and the Braves won the season series from LA. Also, Kerhsaw’s post-season record in not great (no wins and 5+ ERA in 5 games). Also, as Nats fans know, the Braves have the superior bullpen. If the game is tied after 7, advantage Atlanta.

    Baseball playoffs are really hard to predict, but the value pick is the Braves.

  6. natsfan1a - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    I don’t do predictions.

    Not a Dodger fan but I guess I can root for losing on the part of the Braves.

    OTOH, I have no problem continuing to root for Pittsburgh. Turns out that my uncle was a Pirates fan and my Southeast Ohio aunt rooted for them and for Cleveland (the one for her hubby and the other for her sister, AKA my 90-year-old northern Ohio aunt). Hope that Mark is able to get to PNC park for postseason baseball. I read that they’re having a viewing party outside PNC Park for tonight’s game, weather permitting.

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:11 PM

      I do predictions, but they don’t matter because I don’t bet, nobody cares what I think, and they don’t affect the outcome in the slightest.

      I am rooting for the Pirates, against the Braves, and I’d just as soon see Oakland as anybody else in the AL.

      • natsfan1a - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:33 PM

        That works for me.

        “and I’d just as soon see Oakland as anybody else in the AL.”

  7. Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:14 PM

    Go Dodgers and I hope they sweep them.

    Medlen had that amazing run in 2012 only to lose their Wild Card game. Kershaw has much to prove himself.

  8. Faraz Shaikh - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    here is my take:

    Rays lose to Red Sox in ALDS
    A’s lose to Tigers in ALDS
    Tigers beat Red Sox in ALCS

    Pirates lose to Cardinals in NLDS
    Dodgers lose to Braves in NLDS
    Braves beat Cardinals in NLCS

    Tigers win it all by beating Braves in WS.

  9. jd - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    In the previous thread several posters said something like ” Rizzo has plenty of talent to make another Gio like trade” when discussing the potential of acquiring David Price.

    1st of all that’s not true. The Nats farm system is seriously devoid of A level, can’t miss talent.

    2nd of all the Rays traded Shields last year for Will Myers who happened to be one of the top 5 prospects in all of baseball and Price is better than Shields by quite a margin. I think the Rays will agree to discuss Price provided the Nats make Rendon, Ramos and Goodwin available.

    • therealjohnc - Oct 4, 2013 at 6:05 PM

      Two separate questions there.

      (1) Do the Nationals have enough to make another Gio like trade? Answer: clearly yes. Even if you assume that the Nats do not have “A level, can’t miss talent” (Lucas Giolito says hello), they DO have the equivalent of Brad Peacock, Tom Milone and Derek Norris. None of those guys are/were “A level, can’t miss talent.”

      (2) Do they have enough to trade for David Price? And of course the answer to that question depends on what other offers the Rays get for Price. The Shields trade was widely panned at the time, and hasn’t looked better in the rear view mirror. If someone else wants to be stupid and has a top 5 prospect to deal for one year of David Price (and add the $$$ that go into signing him to a long term deal), then the Nats don’t want to even try to compete against that.

  10. natsfan1a - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    OT alert, just noticed that Amanda Comak is leaving the Nats beat. Evidently, she’s not going far, with more details to come. Always enjoyed reading her stuff.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/nationals-watch/2013/oct/3/fond-farewell-and-bit-thanks/

  11. Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:34 PM

    Tampa has won 3 straight 1 game elimination games. Game 162 and 163 and the Wild Card. I want to see Tampa vs Dodgers but that is a long-shot prediction.

  12. jd - Oct 3, 2013 at 3:50 PM

    Ghost,

    I would have picked the Dodgers but I don’t like the way they finished up the year and I am not a big Donny Baseball fan.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:05 PM

      Yes, the Dodgers went in cruise control the last few weeks and looked flat. They have the 2 hottest pitchers in Kershaw and Greinke which is a tough duo. I think they will get back to it tonight. Agree about Donnie. Cardinals and Dodgers in the NLCS. Go from there.

  13. nats128 - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:07 PM

    I find it interesting that the Tigers go Scherzer to Verlander. Verlander has not been dominant this year. Smart move by Leyland.

  14. Sec 3, My Sofa - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:21 PM

    Somewhat on-topic, in that it includes the Barves:
    Latin players are changing baseball. Get used to it..

    I wasn’t a fan of Jorge when he covered the O’s down here, and I’m not at all convinced this is a “Latino” thing, but the main point, “Lighten up, Francis.” I do endorse. FWTW.

  15. Baseballswami - Oct 3, 2013 at 4:38 PM

    I am rooting for anyone versus the whiny, bratty Barves and their hateful followers. I hope Puig and Hanley pimp it up LA style and McCann implodes.

  16. Section 222 - Oct 3, 2013 at 5:09 PM

    Here here swami! Anything to put McCann in his place. I’m really enjoying the pre and postgame shows on TBS with Olbermann, DeRosa, Pedro, Verducci, and that Dirk guy who used to pitch.

    Looking forward to when the NLDS returns to PNC Park, what a scene the other night.

    My predictions (really, they are total guesses):

    NLDS winners: Pittsburgh, L.A.
    ALDS winners: Detroit, TB
    LCS winners: Detroit, L.A.
    WS winner: Detroit — their rotation is just so strong.

  17. Section 222 - Oct 3, 2013 at 5:13 PM

    jd, do you really think that Peacock, Norris, Milone, and Cole were “can’t miss” talent. Roark and Jordan are probably as likely to succeed in the majors as Peacock and Milone, don’t you think? Would it really be such a huge mistake to trade Goodwin? Not saying those guys could land us Price, but I definitely don’t think they are untouchable.

    On the other hand, I’d be disappointed to lose Rendon. He’s just starting to develop and will be a very good player.

    • David Proctor - Oct 3, 2013 at 5:26 PM

      It would be a huge mistake to trade Goodwin, Rendon or Giolito, in my opinion. Those guys are all more valuable than Cole, Peacock or Milone. I’d be extremely upset.

      I don’t want Price anyway. He’s lost velocity on his fastball and spent time on the DL. An extension would cost us 100 mil. No thanks. And I wouldn’t even consider giving up those prospects for a two year rental. It would have to be attached to an extension (as Gio was).

      • Section 222 - Oct 3, 2013 at 5:57 PM

        You’d really put Goodwin in the same category as Rendon and Giolito? Based on what?

        I’d be reluctant to part with them too. But I sure do want Price. PItched more innings this year than Strasburg in three fewer starts. And when the chips were down on Monday night, he did what aces do. Can’t say the same for Stras this year, or Znn or Gio last year.

  18. Baseballswami - Oct 3, 2013 at 5:24 PM

    Must they continue to refer to last year???

    • David Proctor - Oct 3, 2013 at 5:27 PM

      Even hearing Dick Stockton and Bob Brenly’s voice hurts me.

      • Section 222 - Oct 3, 2013 at 5:51 PM

        I was thinking the same thing DP, even though I attended Game 5, somehow their voices are connected with that disappointment.

  19. Section 222 - Oct 3, 2013 at 6:06 PM

    The Cardinals have a scary lineup. Yikes.

  20. David Proctor - Oct 3, 2013 at 6:07 PM

    Sec 222, Goodwin would be the guy I’m most willing to part with. He’s clearly not on the level of Rendon or Giolito. Having said that, I’m a big fan of Goodwin. I think he’s going to be a great player at the major league level in a couple years. He’ll be the leadoff guy and center fielder that we need and he’ll hit for some power. I’ve heard him compared to Michael Bourn, except with more power.

  21. David Proctor - Oct 3, 2013 at 6:19 PM

    Yikes Burnett…

  22. Baseballswami - Oct 3, 2013 at 6:20 PM

    Say what you will about the Cardinals– great fan base, non- star team players, and they are the very best at putting up a good at bat. We need to do it that way, too. There are good reasons why the go to the post season a lot. Watch and learn.

    • David Proctor - Oct 3, 2013 at 6:26 PM

      Agreed, but there are certain guys on our staff who are just never going to be that way. Desi is never going to be a patient hitter. I think if you try to force him into something he’s uncomfortable doing, you’re just going to make him worse. Desi used to be told to be patient, see pitches and all of that…and he sucked doing it.

      I think guys could learn from Werth. Werth picks his spots. He’ll ambush a first pitch fastball, but he knows when to do it (and is usually successful). He can also put together a great AB and make a guy work. It’s situational awareness. I’ve seen times when a pitcher is completely on the ropes and one of our guys goes up there and swings at the first pitch and bails them out. In that particular instance, it makes no sense to do that. I don’t think you necessarily have to be the Cardinals. You just have to be smart.

  23. Section 222 - Oct 3, 2013 at 6:38 PM

    What guys are you thinking could learn from Werth? Certainly not Desi. He’s been watching him for the past three years. Rendon has a good approach. Zim is who he is. Are you thinking about Harper?

    • David Proctor - Oct 3, 2013 at 6:43 PM

      Rendon’s approach is usually good, but sometimes he infuriates me. EVERY SINGLE TIME watching a fastball for strike 1 right down the middle. I get he wants to put together a good AB, but pitchers know he’s not going to swing and they’ve been exploiting that to steal strike 1. I’m not saying he has to turn into Desi, but occasionally swinging at the first pitch just to make pitchers think about it would be nice.

      Harper can improve, although I’m mightily impressed by his batting eye for such a young guy. He has one of the best batting eyes on the team. I think sometimes he gets overanxious and tries to do too much though (“tries to do too much” must be the cliche of the season). I think Harper is kind of the anti-Rendon though. I think he goes up there sometimes saying “I’m going to swing at the first pitch no matter what” and swings at junk. Again, just being smarter about it.

      Like I said, Desi is who he is. No point in trying to change that, especially with how successful he has been with it.

  24. Baseballswami - Oct 3, 2013 at 6:55 PM

    I agree about Desi– but even he needs to pay more attention to the situational need. I think this may change a bit with a new manager. Davey’s whole attitude just screams home run. But our roster seems to be more suited to having more small ball injected into it. Nice power through the lineup, but smarter situational hitting is needed.

  25. Mrsb loves the Nats - Oct 3, 2013 at 8:36 PM

    Sick to my stomach to think I am rooting for the Dodgers..

    Sick to my stomach that the Nats aren’t in this…

    Cards are just a prime example and blue print of a good organization….

  26. nats128 - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:09 PM

    Gattis is a poor defender and just cost the Barfos.

    • nats128 - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:17 PM

      Add to that poor baserunning by Gattis.

  27. nats128 - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    Yo Adrian. Who said Medlen was good?

  28. David Proctor - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:31 PM

    I like the way this game is going.

    • Joe Seamhead - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:36 PM

      Me, too, David!

  29. nats128 - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:32 PM

    “Faraz Shaikh – Oct 3, 2013 at 2:38 PM
    medlen also has great overall stats against dodgers, except hanley and ethier.”

    Faraz keeps having the reverse lock on these pitchers. Salazar last night and now Medlen.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Oct 4, 2013 at 8:57 AM

      come on, they are just having one bad night. watch minor pitch game of his life tonight.

  30. Section 222 - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:40 PM

    I’m loving the Braves getting their heads handed to them tonight so far.

    All the commentators on MLB Network, and now on TBS think it was a dumb move to keep Uggla off the roster. If Johnson were a better hitter it might make some sense, but I tend to agree that even with his lousy average Uggla is a dangerous hitter.

    • nats128 - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:42 PM

      There must be more to it. They really needed to find a 2nd baseman at the trade deadline and probably a CF also so they can play Justin Upton in LF and Heyward in RF.

      • Section 222 - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:49 PM

        Maybe they should have traded for Espi. :-)

  31. nats128 - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:45 PM

    Kershaw has struggled with control all inning. Barfos couldnt take advantage.

  32. Section 222 - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:47 PM

    DP, I thought your criticism of Rendon taking first pitches was unfair, and there’s nothing like watching a game on TV to give you the time to check out the numbers. As I suspected, they simply don’t bear out your view. You’re right, of course, that he takes the first pitch a lot — 84% of the time in fact, compared to 62% for Desi, and only 60% for Harper. Even Werth swung at 20% of first pitches. But Rendon struck out less this year on a per at bat basis than Werth, Desi, Zim, Harper, and ALR. Only Ramos and Span avoided the K better. Plus, he strikes out less often when he gets to a two strike count (34%) than either Zim or Harper (both at 38%). Werth, the master of fouling off pitches with two strikes, still K’s 33% of the time when he gets to a 2-strike count. Desi, nearly 50% of the time.

    Rendon’s also a very decent 2 strike hitter. His overall OBP this year was .329. With 2 strikes, it was .303. Both Zim (.344 to .230) and Harper (.368 to .295) have much bigger dropoffs in their numbers with two strikes. And much as we love those long ABs that Werth has, his slashline with 2 strikes this year was .236/.309/.32. Rendon’s was about the same — .229/.303/.371. (Desi’s was worse than Rendon — .199/.278/.351.) And both Zim and Harper, especially Zim, have better numbers in the ABs where they swung at the first pitch, while Rendon’s numbers are much worse when he swings at the first pitch. (Desi, surprisingly enough, improves a little if he takes the first pitch.)

    So with all that in mind, it seems pretty clear that taking the first pitch works for Rendon. He likes to look over the pitches to find the right timing and he isn’t fazed by a 2 strike count. My impression is that he doesn’t chase bad pitches like some of our other hitters, and it seems to be borne out by the numbers. Leave him be!

    Check out his splits for yourself. Pretty interesting.

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=rendoan01&year=&t=b

  33. nats128 - Oct 3, 2013 at 9:52 PM

    Crazy. Amanda Comak is gone. I enjoyed quite a few of her articles. Different perspective.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com/blog/nationals-watch/2013/oct/3/fond-farewell-and-bit-thanks/

  34. NatsLady - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:08 PM

    On the topic of hitting, here is an interesting article about Miguel Cabrera.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303464504579107291140308858.html

  35. Mrsb loves the Nats - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:12 PM

    This is a long game….

  36. Mrsb loves the Nats - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:16 PM

    Kershaw has thrown a lot of pitches in 4 innings…. This isn’t his best night…

  37. Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:20 PM

    After Chris Johnson got that hit it reminded me to check his year end stats. I had a lively debate with someone in July who said that when his BAbip was .410 he wouldn’t keep it up. I said he wouldn’t fall off much and would end up over .380. He finished at .394 with a .321 BA.

    • nats128 - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:31 PM

      I will give him credit in that he seems to make hard contact. Not to many soft grounders from him.

  38. David Proctor - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:24 PM

    What do you know, the Braves hit another young star.

    • nats128 - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:32 PM

      +1

  39. Steady Eddie - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:27 PM

    Another Barves big-mouthed pitcher throwing at the other team’s young prodigy. Not totally intentional, perhaps, but funny how it happened to be Puig he hit. Nice to see Medlen taken out after only 4 a dn with two runners on he’s responsible for.

    Not a big Dodgers fan but boy do I appreciate everything and anything the blues do to take them down a notch if not humiliate them.

    Barves lack of strong starters will come back to bite them big time in this series.

    • nats128 - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:28 PM

      Looked very suspect to me.

  40. Mrsb loves the Nats - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:33 PM

    I would have PH for Kershaw….

    • nats128 - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:36 PM

      No way. 4 innings pitched and it was a 2 out situation. Later in the game sure.

  41. nats128 - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:35 PM

    Medlens line is finished 5 earned over 4 innings for a 11.25 ERA. 2 years in a row he has choked.

  42. David Proctor - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:37 PM

    It made sense to hit him, by the way. There was a runner on third with 1 out. Putting him on base set up the double play. They then brought in Ayala, the groundball specialist. It’s a coincidence that Medlen’s last pitch was the HBP to setup the doubleplay with the groundball already warmed up? I’m skeptical.

    • nats128 - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:40 PM

      What game are you watching? Adrian Gonzalez singled. There wasnt a open base.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:43 PM

      There was a runner on 1st when Medlen plunked Puig.

  43. Mrsb loves the Nats - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:40 PM

    Perfect pitch…

  44. Mrsb loves the Nats - Oct 3, 2013 at 10:42 PM

    Thought that was Kershaw’s best inning…

  45. naterialguy - Oct 3, 2013 at 11:04 PM

    braves are such punks

    • nats128 - Oct 4, 2013 at 8:22 AM

      +1 I have often thought the Phillies fans are the worst fans but the Braves players are the worst in collective character.

  46. naterialguy - Oct 3, 2013 at 11:16 PM

    I can’t believe these losers have the delusion to be doing the tomahawk choke

  47. Section 222 - Oct 3, 2013 at 11:18 PM

    I don’t think C. Johnson will be mouthing off to Kershaw like he did to Jose Fernandez. And Kershaw could hit one out too.

  48. Eugene in Oregon - Oct 3, 2013 at 11:24 PM

    Just back from teaching and delighted with Braves score (alas for the Pirates, however). Query: Has Brain McCann had to defend the integrity of the game?

  49. David Proctor - Oct 3, 2013 at 11:32 PM

    You hear the quote from Kris Medlen before the game? He was asked about the Braves missing Kershaw when they played the Dodgers in the regular season. Medlen said “We didn’t miss Kershaw, Kershaw missed us.”

    Yeah well…look at the score right now.

    • nats128 - Oct 4, 2013 at 8:21 AM

      Just a cocky little POS. What will they say after Greinke beaths them?

  50. naterialguy - Oct 4, 2013 at 12:12 AM

    Well that was sweet. Interesting hear the announcers talk about how poorly team’s that rely on the long have done historically in the playoffs.

    • NatsLady - Oct 4, 2013 at 12:23 AM

      None of the first 28 Cards batters struck out.

  51. natsfan1a - Oct 4, 2013 at 6:36 AM

    Went to bed with the Bravos down by 5, and the flaccid foam chop-chops dormant. Nice to wake up and learn that it held.

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