NLCS Dodgers-Cardinals Game 1 preview: Zack Greinke vs. Joe Kelly

For Game 1 starters Zack Greinke and Joe Kelly, the time for talking is almost over. (USATSI)
For Game 1 starters Zack Greinke and Joe Kelly, the time for talking is almost over. (USATSI)

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ST. LOUIS -- Game 1 of the 2013 NLCS between the Dodgers and Cardinals is mere hours away, so now it's time to look more closely at how the pitching match-up between Zack Greinke (15-4, 2.63 ERA, 135 ERA+, 1.11 WHIP, 3.22 K/BB) and Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69 ERA, 135 ERA+, 1.36 WHIP, 1.80 K/BB) may play out. Let's break it down ... 

Greinke vs. Cardinals

This season, Greinke has faced the Cardinals only once. On Aug. 5 in St. Louis he gave up two earned on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings of work. He struck out four and walked one. In that start, Greinke, relative to his 2013 norms, favored his sinker and cutter quite a bit rather than his four-seamer. Will that again be the case in Game 1? Here's what Greinke said in his Thursday media session on the difficulties of "game-planning" St. Louis hitters:

"Once you get them out one way, most of their players can adjust, so you can't really just keep going to it.  Where some teams you just keep going to the same spot and the hitters don't adjust.  But if you make a mistake, that hitter usually hurts you.  But they have the ability to hit just about any pitch you throw."

Perhaps that augurs a change of approach for Greinke, even though his emphasis on fastballs with movement worked fairly well last time. 

As for other trends, hitters presently on the Cardinals' roster have combined to hit a productive .292/.344/.417 against Greinke, albeit across a limited sample of 134 plate appearances. Athough the sample size qualifiers still very much apply, Matt Holliday and David Freese have each enjoyed quite a bit of success against Greinke. 

Kelly vs. Dodgers

Kelly has made 31 total starts across two major-league seasons, and here are his combined numbers in that role: 178 1/3 IP, 3.03 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 1.59 K/BB. So he's good at keeping runs off the board, but his underlying numbers leave something to be desired. Kelly works around those lacking peripherals by getting ground balls with his sinker. On the downside -- at least for Kelly's purposes -- the Dodger offense has the second-lowest groundball percentage in the NL, so consider these to be dueling tendencies. 

Also worth noting: Part of Kelly's success this season is the result of his stranding more than 82 percent of opposing base-runners. That's a statistic that's highly prone to random variation, and most figures over time tend to settle in at about the 72 percent mark. One of these days, Kelly is going to stop enjoying so much success in terms of leaving runners stranded. Will Game 1 be such an occasion?

Elsewhere, hitters presently on the Dodgers' roster have combined to hit a robust .309/.356/.509 against Kelly across 59 plate appearances. 

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