October 7, 2012
Cardinals-Nationals Division Series Preview
Fresh off winning the first-ever National League wild card game, the Cardinals have the honors of hosting the top-seeded Nationals for a best-of-five series.
St. Louis again holds the offensive edge against their opponents, though the lead is slighter this time around. This is a tough lineup, even without Lance Berkman and Rafael Furcal. Jay is close to being a prototypical leadoff hitter: he hits for average, gets on base, and is the team’s best stolen base threat, in terms of volume and efficiency. Following Jay is a slate of well-rounded hitters. From Beltran through Freese you have players capable of doing it all at the plate. The seven-through-nine spots are the closest thing an opposing pitcher has to a reprieve, especially if Kozma’s uncharacteristically good offensive production ceases.
The Nationals strike out a lot, but make up for it by hitting for power. Their lineup features six players with 15 or more home runs, including four who hit 20-plus. Three of the Nationals starters stole more than 15 bases (Desmond, Espinosa, and Harper). Add in their ability to keep managers honest with a decent alternation of left-handed and right-handed batters, and this is a hard lineup to muzzle.