Rotation found success vs. Cards during season
Club took three of four in August, with Molina absent; Kershaw went 0-2
ST. LOUIS -- Three of the Dodgers' four expected starters for the first four games of the National League Championship Series have put up decent to spectacular numbers against their foe, the Cardinals, this season.
However, much of that success came at a different time. It was during the Dodgers' startling period of road success, when they won three of four at Busch Stadium from Aug. 5-8. It also was against a Cardinals team that, while not much different, was playing without catcher Yadier Molina, who had a right knee sprain.
What to make of the numbers is anyone's guess.
For example, right-hander Zack Greinke, Friday night's Game 1 starter in St. Louis (5:30 p.m. PT on TBS), held the Cards to two runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings of a 3-2 Dodgers win on Aug. 5. Greinke isn't banking on that, nor is he taking for granted his past success against the Cardinals -- going 8-3, with a 3.10 ERA in 12 career regular-season games, including two starts, and posting a 3-1 record, with a 2.28 ERA in five regular-season games, including four starts, at Busch Stadium.
Greinke faced the Cardinals twice in the 2011 NLCS for the Brewers, and went 1-1 with a 6.17 ERA.
"They've got Molina playing now, who is maybe their most valuable player," Greinke said. "So that changes a lot. We were playing really well at the time, and so it's different circumstances, I would say. But I would say we're definitely happier winning that series than, say, if we lost that series."
Left-hander Clayton Kershaw has most notably struggled against the Cardinals, going 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA in his two starts against them this season. Kershaw took the lone loss of the August series, when the Cards bested him for two earned runs on six hits in a 5-1 decision on Aug. 6. Kershaw will start Game 2 on Saturday (1 p.m. PT on TBS).
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly declined on Thursday to name starters for Games 3 and 4 at Dodger Stadium on Monday and Tuesday (both scheduled for 5 p.m. PT on TBS), saying the club had not completed its roster decisions. The Dodgers are expected to go with rookie lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu and righty Ricky Nolasco, with the specifics to be learned later.
Ryu struck out seven in seven scoreless innings at Busch on Aug. 8 in a 5-1 Dodgers victory. Nolasco, acquired in a trade with the Marlins, has sparkled against the Cards this year to the tune of 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA in two starts. On Aug. 7, in a 13-4 victory at Busch, Nolasco gave up three runs, none of them earned, in five innings. The Cards did have seven hits against his five strikeouts.
Nolasco's career numbers against St. Louis have been mixed -- 3-4 with a 3.84 ERA in 11 games, 10 starts, with 80 hits allowed in 61 innings pitched.
Mattingly thought the Cardinals were hurt by Molina's absence in the August series, especially because of Molina's magic behind the plate in calling pitches, but he noted the Cardinals' lineup was similar to the one the Dodgers will face Friday night. He recalled expressing how he felt about the Cards in a text to their manager, Mike Matheny.
"I just remember just leaving him a text basically saying that I felt like they were the best team in that division [the NL Central] over there and that they'd win that thing," Matheny said. "So we felt like they were the best club in that division, and that they were going to win it and they were going to be here."