And then there were four. The final four is set and League Championship Series baseball is ready to commence. The Atlanta Braves lingered in the National League for over six months but, in the end, the two best clubs will meet in one seven game series for the right to punch a ticket to the 2013 World Series. Joe Kelly and Zack Greinke face off in Game 1 of the NLCS with the road team getting the early nod from the oddsmakers as slight favorites with a total of 7.0.
Just like the NLDS, the lower-seeded Los Angeles Dodgers open up as rather definitive series favorites. In fact, the Dodgers (-145) are favored by about the same amount in the NLCS as they were in the Division Series against the Atlanta Braves. Clayton Kershaw was the story in the DS when the reigning Cy Young winner – and future 2013 winner – won the first and last game of the series. Zack Greinke gets the start in Game 1 despite Kershaw getting necessary rest to come back to start on Friday.
The decision to go with Greinke over Kershaw in Game 1 could prove to be a pivotal one for Don Mattingly. The Cardinals posted unusual team splits in 2013 – posting the fourth worst batting average against left-handers in the league and the third best against right-handers. The overlooked former Cy Young of the Dodger’s rotation, Greinke was effective in his lone start on the road in Atlanta despite failing to will his team to a victory. I’m skeptical as to how well Greinke will throw in the biggest start of his career (he has never reached the NLCS) against a mighty offense in a tremendous environment in Busch Stadium. Greinke was so-so in his lone start against St. Louis this season, when he allowed eight hits in just over six innings of work. Understand, Greinke is a tremendous talent but I’m not sure he has the metal to win this one on the road against a red-hot Joe Kelly.
It’s a shame that most who aren’t Cardinals fans won’t be very well-acquainted with Joe Kelly. The former UC Riverside Highlander makes another postseason start after falling just short in a great game against Francisco Liriano in Game 3 of the NLDS. Kelly comes into this start having given up more than three runs once in his last 14 starts. Starting the year in a rather precarious spot coming in as the long relief man in the St. Louis ‘pen, Kelly has pitched everywhere for this St. Louis team and it was only a matter of time until he found himself in the thick of the starting rotation. Kelly beat the Dodgers back in early August when he gave up just one run in 5.1 innings pitched. He’s not the guy that will go seven or eight innings but I love Kelly in this spot at home.
It’s of my opinion that the Cardinals need this game if they hope to go to the World Series. Coming off of a momentum-building win on Wednesday, I expect the Cardinals to come out and get to Greinke behind their home crowd. Kelly scatters some Dodger production over six strong innings and gets the win.
Free Pick: St. Louis Cardinals +114