NLDS Game 3: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Phillies

The St. Louis Cardinals get their turn at home field advantage on Tuesday night, as they host the Philadelphia Phillies in Game 3 of an exciting 5-game National League Divisional Series, with the two teams deadlocked at 1 game apiece and a crucial game tonight on the line for both teams. Though the Phillies remain as the favorites to win the World Series this year, behind one of the best pitching rotations seen in the last decade if not longer, the St. Louis Cardinals have shown their ability to scrap so far in this series, gutting out a win on Sunday in Philadelphia to even the series and send the Cards back home with a possibility to close out with two consecutive wins on their home turf.

However, in order to do that the St. Louis Cardinals will have to figure out one talented postseason pitchers in Cole Hamels (6-4, 3.03 ERA in playoff games), the 2008 NLCS and World Series MVP, who heads into this match-up with plenty of experience in big, important games. He’ll be opposed tonight by Jaime Garcia, who makes his postseason debut tonight, and will be looking to gain his first win in the playoffs that would give his Cardinals an opportunity to knock out the World Series favorite Phillies in tomorrow night’s showdown at Busch Stadium.

In this pitching match-up, it’s actually Jaime Garcia who has been the more dominant pitcher when it comes to the batting line-ups set for this evening, as although he didn’t earn a win in 2 starts against the Phillies this season, Garcia posted a 0.60 ERA against Philadelphia, surrendering just 1 earned run in 15 innings of work with 9 strikeouts. Hamels on the other hand had a shaky outing when he last faced St. Louis late this season, going 7 innings while giving up 4 runs in a 5-0 loss on September the 18th. However, you may chalk that up to the fact that both Hamels and the Phillies were already secured in their playoff berth, and had little to play or compete for all throughout September. However, the batting figures in opposition for tonight’s match-up actually favor Garcia a little bit, if you factor out Garcia making his first career playoff start; Garcia is limiting the current Philly roster to just a .211 batting average lifetime (combined), has given up just 2 home runs, and has only allowed 5 RBIs over a total of 95 at-bats. Hamels is just slightly lower against the Cards, allowing a .258 batting average with 4 homers and 15 RBIs over 132 plate appearances against him.

Betting Lines for St. Louis vs. Philadelphia Sportsbook has my attention today for the betting lines on Philadelphia at St. Louis, giving the St Louis Cardinals +117 odds as underdogs at home against Cole Hamels and the Phillies’ lineup. Philadelphia comes in at -137 odds to win on the money line, and gives up 1.5 runs on the spread at +125 odds while St. Louis takes 1.5 runs at -145 odds. The over/under on tonight’s game stands at 7 runs, which the way this series has been going (averaging 13 runs per game during the first two contests), could be beatable on the over wager, set at -105 odds (under is at -115 though, indicating the bookmakers’ confidence this will be a lower scoring affair between these two solid pitchers).

Our Pick to Win:

Cole Hamels has been his usual solid self this season, posting a 14-9 record with a miniscule 2.79 ERA. He’s got the upper hand in terms of experience in this match-up against Jaime Garcia (13-7, 3.56 ERA this season), but Garcia has been outstanding against the Phillies’ lineup, and has been brilliant at home this season (9-4, 2.55 ERA). In what has already been a bit of a wild, high scoring series between these two teams, I like the St. Louis lineup to find a way to produce and live up to their Top-5 offensive statistics generated this season. I’m going underdog tonight with the Cardinals, as they steal a win away from Philly, 5-3 tonight.

Players to Watch, Philadelphia:

Ryan Howard, 1B – Howard has to step up in tonight’s match-up against Jaime Garcia, who he’s fanned 6 times against in 12 career at-bats, and has just a .167 average against him. On the season he does have 6 RBIs in 7 at-bats against St. Louis pitching, so a Howard long ball would be a welcome addition to Cole Hamels’ night on the mound.

Jimmy Rollins, SS – It’s critical that the Phillies’ speedster get on base early and often, and like most of the Phillies’ line-up, Rollins has to crack though and have success against Garcia if the Phillies want to win tonight. He’s just 1-for-11 lifetime against Garcia, but 5-for-8 with 5 runs scored against St. Louis pitching this season. Those numbers need to converge a bit in this match-up.

Players to Watch, St. Louis:

Lance Berkman, RF – Berkman has already had success in this NLDS, going 1-for-4 in each of the first two games with 3 runs scored and a 3-run home run in Game 1. He’s 7-for-21 lifetime against Hamels (.333), and with Matt Holliday out of the lineup, Berkman will want to be the boost in his absence from the power section of the Cards bats.

Rafael Furcal, SS – Base runners are going to be key tonight, and with Furcal’s success at the plate in the first two games of this series (3-for-9), he’ll need to be the one in the lead-off spot to crack open Hamels and be on base for the big Cardinals’ bats to start producing runs early.