After a classic opener in the NL championship series, runs figure to be just as hard to come by in Game 2.
That’s not surprising given that the Los Angeles Dodgers will turn to ace Clayton Kershaw, but even he hasn’t been quite as stellar recently as his mound opponent – a pitcher who has made just 10 total major league starts.
Kershaw will duel with impressive rookie Michael Wacha on Saturday, with the visiting Dodgers looking to even this series that began in thrilling fashion.
These storied franchises are meeting in this round for the first time since 1985, and the 28-year wait proved to be worth it Friday night. They dueled well into the night before Carlos Beltran singled in the winning run in the 13th inning for a 3-2 victory.
Beltran, who has never played in a World Series, was the star as he drove in all three runs for St. Louis and threw out Mark Ellis at the plate in the 10th. The 16-year veteran is 12th all-time and third among players with at least 30 playoff games with a career .345 postseason average.
“That’s a preview. Today was a good game and that’s what it’s all about. They didn’t want to lose and we didn’t want to lose,” he said.
Now it’s time for Kershaw (1-0, 0.69 ERA) to give the Dodgers a lift after he limited Atlanta to three runs – one earned – while striking out 18 over 13 innings in two division series outings.
“I mean, he’s obviously been one of the league’s top pitchers,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “You throw him from the left side, first of all, then you put the velocity and the ability to control the counts and both sides of the strike zone and use his off speed pitches.”
The Cardinals, however, were one of two teams to defeat Kershaw twice this year. He went 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA in those two outings, with Pete Kozma going 4 for 5 with three doubles off him.
The Cardinals didn’t homer in those games, but that’s part of what make them dangerous to Kershaw.
“Everybody talks about the team approach that they have, and kind of passing the baton just to the next guy,” Kershaw said. “They don’t hit a lot of homers, but they just get big hits and that’s kind of what they preach. I guess that’s the challenge they pose.”
The Cardinals’ success against Kershaw this year may be surprising since they went 19-23 in the regular season against left-handed starters and also lost a division series game started by Pittsburgh’s Francisco Liriano.
Kershaw’s first career postseason start came against the Cardinals. He gave up two runs over 6 2/3 innings and did not get a decision in a 3-2 win in Game 2 of a 2009 division series.
As good as the former NL Cy Young Award winner is, at least the Cardinals have a good idea of what to expect.
The same can’t be said for the Dodgers as they get their first look at Wacha (1-0, 1.23), who has been nearly unhittable while totaling 18 strikeouts in his last two outings.
Wacha’s bid for a no-hitter was broken up with two outs in the ninth inning by an infield hit by Washington’s Ryan Zimmerman in a 2-0 victory Sept. 24. After a 12-day layoff, he took a no-hitter into the eighth inning in Game 4 on Monday in Pittsburgh. A homer by Pedro Alvarez was the only hit he allowed over 7 1/3 innings in a 2-1 road victory with the Cardinals’ season on the line.
That was the 10th start for the right-hander, who has World Series experience — as a junior in college at Texas A&M two years ago. He feels his college experience is helping him get schooled on the Dodgers lineup.
“Texas A&M is a pretty tough college, so you have to study for those exams pretty good,” he said. “But, yeah, just getting in the film room, checking out these guys. It’s a tough lineup, so you’ve got to go out there and execute pitches against them.”
Wacha will face fellow rookie sensation Yasiel Puig, who was 0 for 6 with two strikeouts Friday after going 8 for 17 in the division series.
The Dodgers outhit the Cardinals 9-7 but went 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
“We had a couple opportunities to get a run in and we didn’t do it,” manager Don Mattingly said. “If the rest of the series is like this game, it should be a pretty good one.”
Mattingly gave Andre Ethier the start in center field Friday. Ethier went 1 for 5 after he played sparingly in the division series due to an ankle injury.