LOS ANGELES DODGERS (95-71)
at ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (100-67)
National League Championship Series, Game 1
First pitch: Friday, 8:35 p.m. ET
Line: Los Angeles -125, St. Louis +115, Total: 7
The Dodgers enter Game 1 of the NLCS as the slight road favorites, taking on a Cardinals squad that will be looking to advance to the World Series for the second time in three years.
Zack Greinke (15-5, 2.65 ERA) takes the mound for Los Angeles in this one having lost his only postseason start thus far, despite allowing only two runs in six innings to the Braves. St. Louis will counter with Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69 ERA), who gave up three runs (two earned) in just 5.1 innings in his first playoff start versus Pittsburgh. The pitching matchup may explain why the Dodgers are favorites in this one, but it is never easy beating the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, where they have racked up a 56-28 record (.667) this season. However, Los Angeles is an excellent 46-37 (.554) on the road. That included taking 3-of-4 at Busch Stadium when these two teams met earlier in the season in St. Louis, making the club 7-4 in St. Louis since 2011 began. Overall, the Dodgers lead the season series 4-3 with a 14-11 advantage in the past three years.
In Greinkeís (1.10 WHIP) past three outings, he is 0-2 despite pitching extremely well with a 1.59 ERA and 0.65 WHIP. Overall, he finished the season incredibly with a 2-1 record and 1.75 ERA in September after posting a 5-0 record and 1.23 ERA in August. The Dodgers are 22-7 (.759) in Greinke's starts this year, including 10-5 on the road where he has been slightly worse (3.20 ERA, 1.30 WHIP). He won his lone start against the Cardinals in 2013, which was at Busch Stadium on Aug. 5 when he gave up two earned in 6.1 innings. Overall in his career, the right-hander is 8-4 with a 3.55 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 12 starts against St. Louis. OFs Matt Holliday (6-for-20, 2 HR) and John Jay (6-for-16) have gotten the best of him regularly, while OF Carlos Beltran is just 1-for-7 with 2 K's against Greinke, who is 12-0 this season against teams averaging 0.9 HRs or less per game. Greinke is supported by a quality bullpen that is 32-24 with a 3.49 ERA and 1.30 WHIP, having fanned 471 batters in 484 innings. That unit could come in handy if Greinke reverts to the way he pitched in the 2011 postseason when he tallied a 6.48 ERA and 1.37 WHIP over three starts.
Kelly (1.36 WHIP) was actually much worse at home this during the regular season with a 3.29 ERA and 1.42 WHIP, compared to his 2.07 ERA and 1.26 WHIP on the road. Kelly has been much better as a starter, with a 9-3 record and 2.28 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in his 15 starts, compared to his 3.65 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 22 bullpen appearances. He is 1-1 with a 3.72 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in four career appearances against the Dodgers, three of which were starts. In his lone start versus L.A. this year on Aug. 6, Kelly allowed just one run in 5.1 innings of a 5-1 victory. No Dodgers hitter has more than eight career at-bats against him, though 1B Adrian Gonzalez (4-for-7, 1 HR, 3 RBI) has really had Kelly's number. Kelly isnít a dominating pitcher with only 79 strikeouts in 124 innings this regular season, so the key to his success is limiting base runners, with only 44 walks in that span. Although Kelly has averaged just 5.8 innings per start this year, a big reason why his team is 11-4 in his 15 starts this season, is because of a strong relief corps. The St. Louis bullpen has a 3.42 ERA and 1.24 WHIP this year, and while that ERA is slightly higher at home (3.74 ERA), the WHIP has been slightly better at Busch Stadium (1.23 WHIP).