(SportsNetwork.com) - Two pitchers will take the hill on Saturday in Game 2 of
the National League Championship Series. One has been nearly unhittable the
last two times he's pitched. And the other is Clayton Kershaw.
Runs figure to be at a premium tonight, as Michael Wacha and the St. Louis
Cardinals try to go up two games to none on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the
best-of-seven series at Busch Stadium.
Wacha has been the early story of this postseason, as he nearly no-hit the
Pittsburgh Pirates in a season-saving win for the Cardinals in Game 4 of the
NLDS. The 22-year-old righty took a no-hitter into the eighth in a stellar 7
1/3-inning, nine-strikeout performance to help the Cards force a fifth and
"Why he's been able to be successful so far is that he has trusted himself,"
Cards manager Mike Matheny said of Wacha. "He's trusted the game plan that's
put in front of him. He's trusted his catcher. He's trusted his stuff. Then it
comes down to taking the distractions and minimizing them."
Of course, Wacha came within an out of no-hitting the Washington Nationals in
his final start in the regular season.
"I'm definitely looking forward to pitching in front of this home crowd. It's
going to be a lot of fun," said Wacha, who has never faced the Dodgers. "Just
watching them on TV, it's a great ballclub and definitely a dangerous lineup.
I'm just going to have to go out there and make pitches."
Kershaw, meanwhile, is likely headed toward another NL Cy Young Award after a
remarkable regular season that saw him go 16-9 and lead the major leagues with
a minuscule 1.83 ERA and an NL-best 232 strikeouts.
It was the fourth consecutive season that Kershaw tallied 200 or more
strikeouts. He also allowed a .195 batting average -- .202 to right-handed
hitters and .165 to left-handed hitters.
The postseason spotlight hasn't fazed him one bit, as Kershaw went 1-0 against
the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS and pitched to a 0.69 ERA in two starts, the
last one, of course, came on three days' rest and secured the Dodgers' series
"You guys make a big deal about three days' rest," he told a room full of
reporters before the NLCS opener. "I never made a big deal out of it. (Dodgers
manager Don Mattingly) never made a big deal out of it. ... I mean, no
offense, but I'm just kind of tired of it."
Over his last 11 starts, including his two postseason starts, Kershaw is 6-2
with a remarkable 1.46 ERA.
Kershaw, though, lost both of his starts to the Cardinals this season and
pitched to a 4.15 ERA in doing so.
Kershaw will need to be aware of St. Louis' Carlos Beltran, who drove in all
three runs in the Cardinals' thrilling 3-2 win in 13 innings in Game 1.
Of the five previous times the Cards won the first game of the NLCS (home or
away), they advanced to the World Series three times.
"We have had our fair share of extra-inning games, but none more special than
that one," second baseman Matt Carpenter said. "Winning Game 1 is huge,
especially in that fashion. Whether they want to admit it or not, winning that
game in that kind of scenario, that's a tough way to lose a game."
Beltran had tied the game with a two-run double in the third inning, but hours
later stroked a one-out hit toward the right field corner off Dodgers closer
Kenley Jansen to score Daniel Descalso from second base with the winning run.
"It was a good team win," shortstop Pete Kozma said, before slightly altering
his wording. "A good team Carlos win today."
They weren't the only heroics for Beltran, who also gunned a runner down at
home for an inning-ending double play in the 10th.
Perhaps the best postseason hitter of this generation, Beltran now has four
game-winning postseason RBI in his career. He also has nine RBI in these
"He's basically built up a resume as one of the greatest postseason hitters of
all time," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said of Beltran. "We knew that coming
in. When you compound that by giving him two 3-1 counts to hit in, he knows
what to do."
Juan Uribe, who hit the homer Monday that got the NL West-champion Dodgers
into the NLCS, had a two-run single in the third inning for LA's only runs in
Lance Lynn (1-0) threw two innings to get the win and Chris Withrow (0-1) gave
up a pinch-hit single to Descalso and walked Matt Carpenter in the 13th.
"It feels great coming back to the ballpark and knowing you've got Clayton on
the mound," Ellis said. "We're going to do everything we can to earn the
The Dodgers were 4-3 against the Cardinals this season, including three wins
in four games in St. Louis. Not having homefield advantage for this series may
not matter, as Los Angeles was tied with Texas for the best road record in the
majors in 2013, at 45-36.
This series will shift to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Monday.
The Sports Network