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MLB playoffs: National League features classic pitching vs. offense matchups (+video)

The Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Pittsburgh Pirates all have talented starting pitchers. The question is can that pitching subdue quality hitters on all four teams.

By Julia GofmanContributor / October 3, 2013

Members of the St. Louis Cardinals take the field at Busch Stadium for a workout on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013, in St. Louis. Game 1 of the National League Division Series baseball playoff between the Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Pirates is scheduled for Thursday.

Charlie Riedel/AP

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Thursday, the best in Major League Baseball begin their quest to reach the World Series as the divisional playoffs gets started. From 30 emerge the best 4 from each league, who face off knowing that with each win their team moves one step closer to the trophy.  Who will come out on top?

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The 2013 National League (NL) Division Series welcomes the Pittsburgh Pirates for the first time in 21 years, the cash-rich Los Angeles Dodgers look to make a return on their huge roster investments, while the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals are business as usual.

The NL Central-winning Cardinals are no strangers to postseason baseball this millennium. Since 2000, the Cardinals have made 10 postseason appearances, three of them resulting in trips to the World Series.

This year, they will be expecting to make a deep run and come out with a title. As the National League’s most balanced lineup, with five players racking up at least 78 RBIs in the regular season, veteran Cardinal leaders Matt Holiday, Carlos Beltran, and MVP candidate Yadier Molina have plenty of playoff experience between them. Young stars Matt Carpenter and Allen Craig look to follow their lead.

After playoff-proven ace Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals don’t have much in the way of playoff-tested pitching following him.

Wainwright spoke about the potential of this team and its legacy, telling MLB.com “I think we could make this one of the golden eras of Cardinal baseball if we go out there and execute the way we can, play the way we should."

The Atlanta Braves enter the postseason after dominating the normally-competitive NL East for the entirety of the 2013 season. However, the team finished the season poorly, going 13-14 in September while playing no playoff teams in the process.

The strong suit of the Braves this season has been their stellar pitching. Young studs Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, and Julio Tehran headline a staff that led the National League in earned run average (ERA), walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP) and quality starts.

The bullpen starts where the starters stop and is headlined by All-Star Craig Kimbrel, who has been lights out this season converting 50 of 54 save opportunities.

If the inexperienced Cardinals’ pitching staff worries you, the Braves will be downright terrifying. Between Medlen, Minor and Tehran there is only one playoff start, and while each was very solid this season, an ace never emerged from the staff.

When asked about his starters, Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez told the Associated Press, “Hey, they’re young, but they’re going to have to grow up sooner or later. I don’t think there’s a No. 1 ace and I’m OK with it. Maybe we have five No. 3's.” 

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