Point-Counterpoint: Who's Going to Win National League Championship Series?
St. Louis-area Patch editor Joe Scott makes his case for the Cardinals, while the Milwaukee area's Mark Schaaf argues for the Brewers. Plus, watch for Patch's real-time NLCS Fan Forum starting at 2 p.m. Sunday.
The Milwaukee Take: Brewers in Seven
Oak Creek editor Mark Schaaf was just a twinkle in his father's eye during the last Suds Series, but better late than never: He's attended every playoff game at Miller Park and sleeps next to a Gorman Thomas bobblehead.
When Nyjer Morgan tweeted “I hope those crying birds injoy watching tha Crew in tha Playoffs!" on Sept. 7, few could have imagined just how wrong Morgan would turn out to be.
Well, the spelling and grammatical errors were obvious. But more importantly, the Cardinals were an after-thought in the playoff race at that time. You know how it turned out: St. Louis would go on a tear, catch and pass the Atlanta Braves on the final day of the regular season, and upset perennial favorite Philadelphia in the National League Division Series.
So a rematch of the ’82 Suds Series it is, beginning Sunday afternoon at Miller Park.
It’s the last part of that sentence that serves as the biggest reason why the Crew will pull out the series: the majority of the games will be played on the banks of Lake Michigan.
The Brewers won an unbelievable 57 games at Miller Park this season, a franchise record that was the best home record in all of baseball.
The success continued this past week in an intense five-game series against Arizona. Milwaukee fought to game No. 162 to secure home field advantage and it paid off, as the home team won all five games and the Brewers took the series. With the Phillies eliminated, and Prince Fielder’s three-run homer in the All-Star game giving the National League home field in the World Series, the Brewers, incredibly, now have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Of course, simply playing a lot of games at Miller Park is no guarantee the Brewers will win the series. It will take both of the team's MVP candidates — Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder — to continue giving the Brewers arguably the best one-two punch in all of MLB. And the supporting cast of Morgan, Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Jerry Hairston Jr. need to deliver.
If the teams’ first-round playoff series are any indication, this seven-game series isn’t likely to end quickly. That being the case, the longer the series goes, the more Milwaukee’s home field advantage comes into play. And that hasn’t been a good sign for Brewers’ opponents.
The St. Louis Take: Cardinals in Seven
Associate local editor Joe Scott is a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan whose first memory in school involves listening to the Cards play in the 1968 World Series. Fortunately, the nuns at St. Gregory were also Cardinals fans.
Yes, the Brewers won more games over the course of the season, finished ahead of the Cardinals in the Central Division and won the season series over the Cards. Yes, they won more home games than any other team in the regular season.
How much does that matter in the postseason? About as much as Philadelphia’s Major League-leading 102 wins mattered in the division series.
The pressure is on the Brewers to win now, just as it was on the Phillies. But the Brewers have never faced that pressure before. Most Phillies players have World Series rings, but they couldn’t come through against St. Louis.
Home field advantage? Please. It didn’t help the Phillies, where the Cardinals won two of three games. Frankly, their pitching staff was more of a test than the Brewers’.
The Brewers have come up short in, well, every season since they stopped being the Seattle Pilots and moved to Milwaukee. They finally landed the ace they have been missing for ages in Zach Greinke. Pressure is on to win. Now.
Meanwhile, the playoffs are old hat to Cards players. Several have World Series rings from 2006. Speaking of which, there’s Albert Pujols. He becomes a free agent at the end of the season, and if he leaves St. Louis, he will want to do it in style: as a champion. He can will the Cards to win.
Oh, and there’s Chris Carpenter. Sure, he’s likely to pitch just twice. But it’s been at least 20 years since MLB has seen a playoff game pitched as masterfully as Carp’s game 5.
Still, nobody expects the wild card team to win it all. Most people—including me—thought the Cards’ season was over in August once they fell behind the Brewers by 10½ games. Then, the baseball gods gave us the Atlanta Braves. They collapsed as the Cardinals metamorphosed into the Hottest Team in Baseball.
During that hot stretch, the Cards swept the Brewers in Milwaukee. They haven’t cooled off yet. This isn’t the same Cardinals team that came tentatively into August. Their defense is better up the middle; the bullpen is solidified; the hitters are confident; and we’ve beaten the game’s two best pitchers in baseball already—Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.
Everything the Cards get from here on out is gravy. They are loose. The Brewers will be expected to win, and thus will be tighter than the elastic on Prince Fielder’s jockey shorts.
But finally, after several years of hoping and trying, they finally won the division. Just when they thought they left the Cardinals in the dust, they turn around only they find the Cardinals standing in their way once again.
The Cardinals have gelled. It took a couple of trades, some tinkering here and there with the bullpen, but Tony La Russa has it figured out. These aren’t the same Cardinals we saw Aug. 1.
The Cardinals are the hot team. How much does that matter? Again, ask the Phillies.
History: The Cardinals have always beaten the Brewers in games that really matter. Ask Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Gorman Thomas, Pete Vuckovich and the rest of the 1982 Brew crew.
The Brewers won the first game of that World Series easily, 10-0. Milwaukee fans thought winning the Series would be as easy as Billy Brewer sliding into his beer stein in the outfield. We remember how that ended, right?
Finally, the forces of nature favor the St. Louis Cardinals. I speak here, of the Rally Squirrel. When random animals begin appearing to help your side win, you know you’re the team of destiny.
Just ask the 2002 California Angels, who won their first and only World Series with the aid of the Rally Monkey.
To sum up: Hot team, team of destiny, no pressure, Pujols, Carp, La Russa, playoff experience and the Rally Squirrel. In a nutshell, it’s the Cardinals in seven games.
Because that’s how we roll.