Preview: Holliday, Cardinals keep focus on Game 5
Although the St. Louis Cardinals are one victory away from winning the NL pennant, they don't want to get caught up with World Series talk after what transpired last October.
A year after a devastating postseason collapse, the Cardinals will try to close out the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 5 of the NL championship series on Wednesday.
St. Louis is seeking a second World Series in three years, and its 4-2 win over Los Angeles on Tuesday has given it a 3-1 series lead.
"We can't get ahead of ourselves," left fielder Matt Holliday said.
He certainly speaks from experience after the Cardinals squandered such a lead in the 2012 NLCS, losing the last three games to San Francisco -- the eventual World Series champion. The offense was a major culprit of that collapse, mustering one run while hitting .190.
It could become a problem again since St. Louis owns a .148 average while totaling eight runs in this series.
The Dodgers, however, are having their own problems at the plate, producing seven runs and going 6 for 33 (.182) with runners in scoring position.
Holliday gave the Cardinals a jolt offensively in Game 4, hitting the first homer of the series -- a two-run shot in the third inning. He finished with two hits after going hitless in his previous 22 at-bats at Chavez Ravine.
"Hopefully, we can throw some offense together like we were (Tuesday) a little bit and keep some positive thoughts going," manager Mike Matheny said. "When we start talking about where the series is, I think it's a distraction. What we've got to do is play a game."
Offense may be at a premium again since the Dodgers are scheduled to send Zack Greinke (0-1, 2.57 ERA) to the mound.
The right-hander is 3-0 with a 1.65 ERA over his last four starts against the Cardinals, but could've use some help from his teammates in Game 1. Greinke struck out 10 and allowed two runs in eight innings of a 3-2 loss in 13 on Friday.
Holliday is 9 for 29 (.310) with two homers all-time against Greinke, including the playoffs.
This time, Greinke is wary of a breakout performance from the Cardinals.
"If you make really good pitches it's not much the offense can do," he said, "but they haven't had many like lucky hits so they're probably due for a couple like flairs and groundballs that just no one can get to."
The Dodgers are certainly more concerned with their own offensive issues, and Hanley Ramirez's availability due to a broken rub. The star shortstop exited in the middle of the sixth inning Tuesday after striking out three times.
"It got worse as we went along," manager Don Mattingly said.
Mattingly may need Ramirez to get better if Los Angeles is going to overturn a 3-1 series deficit for the first time in its lengthy postseason history.
"We realize we've been through a lot in the regular season, but it pales in comparison to what we're doing now," said second baseman Mark Ellis, who went 0 for 4 Tuesday. "We realize we have it in us to do this. It's a three-game win streak. That's all it is."
The Dodgers haven't reeled off three straight postseason wins since sweeping the Cardinals in the 2009 division series.
Joe Kelly (0-0, 3.18), a native of nearby Anaheim, will try to keep it that way, and help the Cardinals wrap up this series.
The right-hander started opposite Greinke in Game 1, yielding two runs in six innings.
"Obviously they know what I've got, and I know what they've got," Kelly said. "It's just going to be about executing pitches, ultimately."
Kelly did that versus Yasiel Puig in Game 1, holding the rookie sensation hitless in three at-bats, striking him out once.
A meeting at Dodger Stadium could prove different since Puig is 9 for 15 (.600) with four RBIs in four playoff games there after getting four hits over the last two against St. Louis.
He hit .360 at home during the regular season compared to .284 on the road.