Game 1: Padres (Jake Peavy, 13-7, 2.88 ERA) at Cardinals (Chris Carpenter, 21-5, 2.83), 1:09 today (ESPN).

Game 2: Padres (Pedro Astacio, 4-2, 3.17) at Cardinals (Mark Mulder, 16-8, 3.64), 4:09 Thursday (ESPN2).

Game 3: Cardinals (Matt Morris, 14-10, 4.11) at Padres (Adam Eaton, 11-5, 4.27), Saturday, TBA.

Game 4*: Cardinals at Padres, Sunday, TBA

Game 5*: Padres at Cardinals, Monday, TBA All eyes will be on: Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols. The NL MVP candidate is a career .324 hitter with eight homers in 28 postseason games, and he will have to carry the St. Louis offense even more than he did in last year's playoffs because 3B Scott Rolen isn't there to provide protection. In seven games against the Padres this season, he hit .385, slugged .808 and had two homers and six RBI.

All eyes should be on: Padres RHP Jake Peavy. Other than closer Trevor Hoffman, the mediocre Padres have no potentially dominant players -- except for Peavy. Yes, he opposes potential Cy Young winner Chris Carpenter in Game 1. But his ERA of 2.88 is just .05 higher than Carpenter's, and in his one start against St. Louis this year he threw eight innings of two-hit, one-run baseball. Peavy is San Diego's best -- only? -- chance to begin the postseason with a monumental upset.

Key stat: 6.24 -- San Diego's team ERA vs. St. Louis this season.

Fearless prediction: Cardinals in three.

-- Barry Svrluga