Fourteen years as an All-Star player in Majors League Baseball afforded current Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly just one trip to the postseason. In 1995, the New York Yankees fell in the American League Division Series in five games, effectively ending Mattingly's chances of winning a title.
Mattingly gets another shot of reaching a World Series title, as his Dodgers face the St. Louis Cardinals in Game One of the National League Championship Series on Friday at Busch Stadium.
Since eliminating the Atlanta Braves 3-1 in the National League Division Series, the Dodgers enter their third NLCS in the last six years, hoping for a much better result than their last two trips. In 2008 and 2009, they fell to the Philadelphia Phillies 4-1, losing the first game in both series.
Riding high off a 6-1 Game Five victory in the NLDS against the upstart Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday, the Cardinals begin their eighth NLCS since 2000. The Cardinals have gone 3-4 in the NLCS in that stretch, winning two of the subsequent World Series.
The first two games of this series will be held in St. Louis, with L.A. hosting Games Three and Four, and Five, if necessary, and returns to St. Louis for the possible Games Six and Seven.
Mattingly took over the Dodgers in 2011, survived a major change in ownership while gradually climbing the NL West, and even survived L.A.’s 23-30 start in the first two months of the season. There were discussions that the Dodgers might fire Mattingly after the club's poor start.
In contrast, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny will taste the NLCS for the second year running, and is obviously hoping for a better return after taking his first NL Central division title. In two years at the helm, Matheny is no stranger to a tight series, with the Cards owning a 10-8 record in the postseason. In 2012, St. Louis won their one-game wild card playoff with the Braves, and followed that up by defeating the Washington Nationals in the fifth game of the best-of-five series, before falling to the San Francisco Giants in the seventh game of the best-of-seven.
Ace Adam Wainwright pitched a complete game with six strikeouts, one earned run, and one walk for his second win of the postseason in Game Five, meaning the righty won’t be available until Game Two at the very earliest. It’s unknown at this time who Matheny will name as starter for Game One, but Lance Lynn would be next up in the rotation, followed by Joe Kelly, and then 22-year-old Michael Wacha.
Arguably boasting the best one-two starting tandem in baseball, the Dodgers will put Zack Greinke on the mound for Game One, and NL Cy Young favorite Clayton Kershaw in Game Two. Greinke won his only start against St. Louis earlier this season, fanning four hitters, and giving up two earned runs. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco are expected to start Games Three and Four, but Mattingly hasn’t announced a decision yet.
The Cardinals' Matt Holliday and Matt Adams smacked six hits each in the NLDS, and combined for 20 total bases, two home runs, and seven runs. Outfielder Carlos Beltran made the most of his few hits, with six RBI and two home runs, and posted a team-high .611 slugging percentage.
The Dodgers lineup was on fire against Atlanta, with Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig leading the way. Four Dodgers had a plus-1.000 OPS, and five had notched at least six hits, while seven had a minimum average of .333. Ramirez has battled injuries of late, but his play hasn't indicated any kind of a drop off.
L.A. may have to put up plenty of runs early, and hope their bullpen can maintain any lead Kershaw or Grienke hands off. The Dodgers relievers have surrendered five earned runs and nine walks, worst amongst the remaining teams in the playoffs. Chris Capuano had a solid performance with 3.0 innings in Game Three, but second-year reliever Paco Rodriguez posted a 5.68 ERA in September, and in two appearances against Atlanta gave up a two–run home run and four total hits.
In contrast, St. Louis should have plenty of confidence in their pen. With a 2.45 ERA and seven hits allowed in 11.0 innings of work, the Cardinals have had the NL’s best bullpen in these playoffs. Though Matheny might have a few questions about Carlos Martinez, who cost St. Louis in Game Three with two earned runs in the ninth inning.
Game One's start time is 8:07 p.m. ET, and will be broadcast by TBS, and with a live online stream.