LOS ANGELES —Three quick observations on the Cardinals and the National League Championship Series.
THE IDEAL STARTER
Joe Kelly has pitched only twice at Dodger Stadium, the Cardinals lost both games and he didn’t pitch well.
But he’s still the ideal guy to start Game 5 of the NL Championship Series this afternoon at Dodger Stadium. Of course, you could say the same about any of the Cardinals’ starters the way they have been pitching.
None, however, is any better suited from a mental and emotional standpoint to start the game that could put the Cardinals in the World Series. Talk about unflappable. The Southern California native has proven to be the same guy all season. Even as he twisted in the bullpen without a set role for much of the first half, he didn’t complain. Once he secured his spot in the rotation, there was no “I told you so.” He said the same stuff: I’m out there trying to get outs as quickly as possible.
How many pitchers would spend part of their day-before presser answering a question about what it would be like to pitch with a Brian Wilson-esque beard? Such nonsense didn’t faze Kelly.
“That’s a funny question,” he said. “I would probably never know how that felt because my facial hair won’t grow that good.”
Though Kelly will be pitching on his native turf, he can count on a long and loud chorus of boos. He is the one who plugged shortstop Hanley Ramirez in the ribs, leaving him a question mark for the rest of the month. But don’t think the HBP was intentional, not in a 1-2 count early in the NLCS. Ramirez even has said he didn’t believe Kelly hit him on purpose.
SAME SITUATION, DIFFERENT YEAR
The difference between last year and this year’s 3-1 NLCS leads is obvious. Games 6 and 7, if necessary this time, would be played at Busch Stadium and not in the enemy’s yard. As comforting as that might be, the Cardinals on Tuesday weren’t looking ahead to a possible game at Busch Stadium. They weren’t thinking about the World Series. They weren’t thinking about Monday night’s 3-0 meltdown.
They were taking the same approach they have all season.
“Honestly, the team will look at it very narrow-minded that we’ve got to come out and try to win a game,” left fielder Matt Holliday said.
Manager Mike Matheny would be proud to hear his players singing the same song he has been stuck on since spring training. He was no different following Tuesday night’s victory.
“We don’t talk about wonderful positions,” Matheny said. “What we talk about is we have a game to play.”
THE WORLD SERIES IS A WIN — AS WELL AS A WEEK — AWAY
Because Game 1 of the Fall Classic isn’t until Oct. 23, the Cardinals will end up with a week between games if they beat the Dodgers today. Such a long layoff between series has hurt numerous clubs in recent years, including the Tigers last year.
Of course, the Cardinals want to move on as quickly as they can. To have a week before the World Series would be like a “problem” not totally unlike what they will face next spring when they have to decide between no fewer than 10 bona fide starting pitcher candidates.
That is, it would be a problem any team would gladly take on.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.