This series is slated to be a great battle. It pairs up the Central winning Cubs, the team with the best record in the NL at 97-65, and the West winning Dodgers. The Cubs have played front-runner for most of the season while the Dodgers relied on a great second half and 2 big additions at the trade deadline (Manny Ramirez and Casey Blake). This is how I see the series breaking down:
Starting Lineup: The Cubs have a well balanced attack that led the league in runs scored. They combine speed with some power and great timely hitting. The dodgers have relied on Manny Ramirez since they picked him up (53 games – 17HR, 53 RBI, .396 Avg). Because the Cubs stay after you throughout the whole lineup (even Carlos Zambranom- .337 Avg, 4 HR) they have to get the edge. They led the league in runs for a reason. Edge Cubs.
Bench: The Dodgers have a good bench with Juan Pierre giving them the ability to get hits or pinch run. In addition, Angel Berroa, Blake Dewitt, and Mark Sweeney make a pretty solid bench for the Dodgers to use. The Cubs also have a pretty solid bench. With Edmonds and Reed Johnson splitting time, that gives them a great option on the bench. Ronny Cedeno and Mark Fontenot also add to the depth in the infield. Slight Edge to the Dodgers here but not by much.
Starting Pitching: This is what will make the Cubs tough to play against. They are going to throw Ryan Dempster (17-6 2.96 ERA), Carlos Zambrano (14-6 3.91 ERA) and Rich Harden (10-2 2.07 ERA) in a short series. That doesn’t include their other 17 game winner, Ted Lilly (17-9 4.09 ERA). The Dodgers will counter with Derek Lowe (14-11 3.24 ERA), Chad Billingsley (16-10 3.14 ERA), and Hiroki Kuroda (9-10 3.73 ERA). You gotta love Lowe’s experience in the postseason but besides that, you have to give the edge to the Cubs in this category.
Bullpen: Carlos Marmol has been lights out for Chicago (2.68 ERA in 87 innings), Kerry Wood has been a steady closer (34/40 saves 3.26 ERA), and Jeff Samardzija has pitched well since being called up. The dodgers have lost one of their best set-up men, Hong Chih Kuo for the series. Joe Beimel, Johnathan Broxton, and Cory Wade have all been great all season (combined 189 innings 2.52 ERA). Their closer, Takashi Saito is back and healthy for the postseason. Both squads have a good bullpen but the Edge goes to the Dodgers with those 3 set-up men for Saito.
Intangibles: Joe Torre in the Postseason, Manny Ramirez in the postseason, Greg Maddux and Derek Lowe in the postseason. That is a lot of good playoff experience. The Cubs were 55-26 at home, they led the league in runs, On-base % and slugging. This squad also got a taste of the postseason last year.
Prediction: In the end the Cubs are too good at home to lose this series. They win the series 3-2.
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