A look at the best-of-five National League division series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers:
Schedule: (All times Arizona time) Game 1, Wednesday, at Los Angeles (6:37 p.m.); Game 2, Thursday, at Los Angeles (3:07 p.m. or 6:37 p.m.); Game 3, Saturday, at St. Louis (3:07 p.m.); x-Game 4, Sunday, at St. Louis (TBA); x-Game 5, Tuesday, Oct. 13, at Los Angeles (TBA). (All games on TBS).
Season Series: St. Louis won 5-2.
Cardinals: 2B Skip Schumaker (.303, 4 HRs, 35 RBIs), SS Brendan Ryan (.292, 3, 37, 14 SBs), 1B Albert Pujols (.327, major league-leading 47 HRs, 135 RBIs, .658 slugging pct., 16 SBs), LF Matt Holliday (.353, 13, 55 in 63 games with Cardinals after trade from Oakland; .313, 24, 109 overall), RF Ryan Ludwick (.265, 22, 97), C Yadier Molina (.293, 6, 54), 3B Mark DeRosa (.228, 10, 28 in 68 games with Cardinals after trade from Cleveland; .250, 23, 78 overall), CF Colby Rasmus (.251, 16, 52).
Dodgers: SS Rafael Furcal (.269, 9, 47), RF Andre Ethier (.272, 31, 106), LF Manny Ramirez (.290, 19, 63, 81 strikeouts, 71 walks), CF Matt Kemp (.297, 26, 101, 34 SBs), 3B Casey Blake (.280, 18, 79), 1B James Loney (.281, 13, 90), 2B Orlando Hudson (.283, 9, 62) or Ronnie Belliard (.277, 10, 39), C Russell Martin (.250, 7, 53).
Cardinals: RH Chris Carpenter (17-4, NL-best 2.24 ERA), RH Adam Wainwright (19-8, 2.63), RH Joel Pineiro (15-12, 3.49), RH John Smoltz (1-3, 4.26 in 7 starts with Cardinals after getting cut by Boston; 2-5, 8.33 overall) or RH Kyle Lohse (6-10, 4.74).
Dodgers: LH Randy Wolf (11-7, 3.23), LH Clayton Kershaw (8-8, 2.79), RH Chad Billingsley (12-11, 4.03), RH Vicente Padilla (4-0, 3.20 in 8 games, 7 starts with Dodgers after getting cut by Texas; 12-6, 4.46 overall) or RH Jon Garland (11-13, 4.01 with Diamondbacks and Dodgers).
Cardinals: RH Ryan Franklin (4-3, 1.92, 38/43 saves), RH Kyle McClellan (4-4, 3.38), LH Trever Milller (4-1, 2.06), LH Dennys Reyes (0-2, 3.29), RH Blake Hawksworth (4-0, 2.03), RH Jason Motte (4-4, 4.76).
Dodgers: RH Jonathan Broxton (7-2, 2.61, 36/42 saves), LH George Sherrill (1-0, 0.65, 1 save in 30 games with Dodgers after trade from Baltimore; 1-1, 1.70, 21 saves overall), LH Hong-Chih Kuo (2-0, 3.00), RH Ramon Troncoso (5-4, 2.72, 6 saves), RH Ronald Belisario (4-3, 2.04), RH Jeff Weaver (6-4, 3.65), RH Guillermo Mota (3-4, 3.44), RH James McDonald (5-5, 4.00).
The Cardinals outscored the Dodgers 31-19 in the season series and can open the playoffs with two Cy Young Award contenders, including Carpenter, the 2005 winner. ... St. Louis batted .234 against left-handers and .274 vs. righties, which could be a factor that favors Dodgers starters Wolf and Kershaw. But the Cardinals have been much better against LHP since the trade for Holliday in mid-July. All seven games in the season series were played between July 27 and Aug. 19, when the Cardinals were at their best. St. Louis was a half-game out of first place before taking three of four from the Dodgers at home, and led by six games after the final meeting this season. ... Carpenter was 2-0 with 1.20 ERA and Wainwright 1-0 with 1.20 ERA, each in two starts, against Los Angeles. Pineiro was 1-0, allowing one run in eight innings in his lone start. Franklin was 3 for 3 in saves. ... Rookie reliever Hawksworth emerged as an arm to be trusted in a 3-2, 15-inning victory on July 29, working three scoreless innings for the victory. ... Pujols is a career .323 hitter in the postseason with 13 HRs and 35 RBIs in 53 games. ... The Dodgers were held to three runs or fewer runs in all their losses to St. Louis, scoring five and seven runs in the victories. ... L.A. pitchers limited Pujols to a .222 average with a homer and two RBIs. DeRosa, Holliday, Ryan and Rick Ankiel each had four RBIs vs. L.A. DeRosa and Ankiel each homered twice. ... Furcal and Kemp had four RBIs apiece for the Cardinals. Five players had a .300 average or better against St. Louis pitching (Juan Pierre .364, Loney .357, Blake .345, Furcal .303 and Martin .300). ... St. Louis won the first three meetings this season, then Los Angeles took a series finale on the road before losing two of three at Dodger Stadium. ... Two of the games in St. Louis went extra innings, with each team winning once. ... The Dodgers own home-field advantage in the series, which could be critical. They've lost 14 of their last 17 games in St. Louis. ... The Cardinals beat Los Angeles in a 2004 division series and the 1985 NL championship series, both en route to World Series defeats.
Cardinals: Back in the playoffs for the first time since winning the 2006 World Series, St. Louis (91-71) won the NL Central with time to spare under manager Tony La Russa. The Cardinals were 37-14 after July 1 in games started by Big 3 of Carpenter, Wainwright and Pineiro, and will try to ride that trio into the NLCS. La Russa has not decided between Smoltz and Lohse, both available for bullpen duty the first two games, for Game 4. Smoltz has experience as closer but has been more impressive since joining St. Louis in August than Lohse, who has struggled since getting hit by a pitch in the right forearm in late May. ... Wainwright worked six or more innings in 26 straight starts, threw one dud, then finished the year pitching deep into his last five games. ... Carpenter was voted the NL comeback player of the year after missing virtually all of 2007 and '08 to injuries. ... Pineiro rode a heavy sinker to his best season since winning 16 games for Seattle in 2003. ... The lineup is vastly improved following the midseason acquisitions of DeRosa and especially Holliday, who averaged nearly an RBI per game batting behind Pujols. Pujols carried the team early, with 32 homers and 87 RBIs at the All-Star break, and hit 47 homers to win his first NL title despite going without a long ball in his last 79 at-bats. He finished third in the league in batting average and RBIs. ... Franklin blew three straight save chances in early September. He appears to be over that funk, although lack of work recently along with lack of playoff experience could be a concern.
Dodgers: Joe Torre's team held off wild-card Colorado to win the NL West, giving the Dodgers consecutive division titles for the first time since 1977-78. The last time they made it to the World Series was 1988, when they upset Oakland. Los Angeles swept the Chicago Cubs in the first round last year, then lost to Philadelphia in five games in the NLCS. ... The Dodgers clinched the division on the penultimate day of the regular season, beating the Rockies 5-0 to end a five-game losing streak. Los Angeles took sole possession of first place for good on April 19 and finished an NL-best 95-67 in its second season under Torre — the first time the Dodgers had the league's best record since 1983. ... It is Torre's 14th straight playoff appearance, tying a record for managers set by Atlanta's Bobby Cox (1991-2005). Torre guided the New York Yankees to the postseason in all 12 years as their manager from 1996-2007. ... The Dodgers, who set a modern major league record by winning their first 13 home games, finished 50-31 at Chavez Ravine — their best home mark since going 54-27 in 1991. They were 29-21 while Ramirez served a 50-game drug suspension. ... Ramirez, who has a record 28 postseason home runs, hasn't gone deep in 31 at-bats since Sept. 18. ... Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda will miss at least the first round of the playoffs with a herniated disk in his neck. He already has sat out two months with an oblique strain and another three weeks after he was struck by a line drive. ... Torre's lineup juggling wasn't effective late in the season when the Dodgers' offense went cold.
- Will Manny Be Manny? Ramirez didn't produce in the final weeks of the regular season. The enigmatic slugger struck out in his six plate appearances heading into the clinching game against Colorado before he singled in the pivotal seventh inning. Last season, Ramirez went 13 for 25 with four homers and 10 RBIs in two playoff series.
- Cardinals Hangover. St. Louis lost six of seven after clinching the NL Central title and often looked sloppy at home while getting swept in a season-ending series by Milwaukee. Relievers threw five wild pitches while handing over a huge lead Friday night. The team matched a season high with three errors on Saturday and wasn't sharp in the finale, either.
- Hanging Chad. Billingsley went from being an All-Star to being mostly ineffective after the break. A year ago, he went into the division series as the Game 2 starter and beat the Cubs. At his worst this season, he went five starts without a win. Now, his place in the rotation is in question because Torre had not committed to a Game 3 starter.
- Up The Middle. Ryan had a breakout season defensively at shortstop for the Cardinals, making a number of dazzling plays while committing only nine errors in 129 games after Khalil Greene twice landed on the disabled list with social anxiety problems. Schumaker made a successful conversion from outfield to second base in spring training to fill a team need, and didn't let the added responsibilities affect his role as the primary leadoff hitter. La Russa has often said Schumaker's steadiness is every bit as important as Pujols' MVP-caliber year and Holliday's huge influence since coming over from Oakland.