ST. LOUIS -- We were treated to some outstanding pitching in Game 1 of the NLCS between the Dodgers and Cardinals, but Game 2, which is scheduled for a 4:07 pm EST start time on Saturday, could be even better -- maybe even legendary.
How's that? Well, starting for the Dodgers is Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83 ERA, 194 ERA+, 0.92 WHIP, 4.46 K/BB), who's the best pitcher on the planet these day, and starting for the Cardinals is Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78 ERA, 131 ERA+, 1.10 WHIP, 3.42 K/BB), who's been dominant since being put back in the rotation in early September and who smothered the Pirates in Game 4 of the NLDS.
Now let's have a closer look ...
Kershaw vs. Cardinals
The Cardinals this season hung a higher ERA on Kershaw (4.15 across two starts) than any other team he faced -- the highest by more than half a run, in fact. In those two starts, the Cards worked Kershaw for five walks in 13 innings, and they also tallied six doubles over that span.
In his May 26 home start against the Cards, Kershaw departed somewhat from his usual pattern by throwing almost 70 percent fastballs. The Cardinals responded by putting four runs on him in seven innings (not good by Kershaw's sky-scraping standards). Next was his Aug. 6 start in Busch, during which he mixed it up a bit: about 50 percent fastballs but a bit more breaking stuff than usual. He was better -- two runs on six hits in six innings -- but still not quite vintage Kershaw. In light of those two outings, it will be interesting to see what kind of pitch mix he and catcher A.J. Ellis go with in Game 2.
Other trends ... Current Cardinals have combined to hit a quite respectable .274/.371/.378 against Kershaw across 161 plate appearances, and Kershaw's 2013 road ERA is more than a half run higher than his mark at home and almost a full run higher for his career.
After working on three-days' rest in the NLDS clincher against the Braves, Kershaw enters Game 2 on full rest.
Wacha vs. Dodgers
The 21-year-old rookie hasn't faced the Dodgers yet, so there's nothing to go on in terms of specific match-up history. Of note, however, is that the Dodger offense ranked second in the NL this season in weight runs created+ (wRC+) against right-handers and a strong first in the NL in wRC+ on the road. So they could pose a challenge, obviously.
As for Wacha in particular, he's a fastball-first pitcher, and that fastball sits in the mid-90s and shows a good bit of arm-side run, particularly for a four-seamer. Also worth mentioning is that in his NLDS start against Pittsburgh, Wacha significantly ramped up his use of the curve. Per PitchFX, the Dodgers were merely middle-of-the-pack among NL offenses in terms of success against four-seamers and curves, so Wacha's pitch selection could be similar to what he used against the Pirates.