The 2013 National League Championship Series is still alive after Zack Greinke led the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 6-4 win in Game 5. The St. Louis Cardinals lead 3-2 and will play Game 6 at home, where a pitchers' duel is set to ensue.
What are the keys to a momentous Game 6 at Busch Stadium?
|2013 MLB NLCS Schedule|
|Game||Date||Road Team||Home Team||Time (ET)||TV|
|1||Friday, Oct. 11||Dodgers (2)||Cardinals (3)||N/A||N/A|
|2||Saturday, Oct. 12||Dodgers (0)||Cardinals (1)||N/A||N/A|
|3||Monday, Oct. 14||Cardinals (0)||Dodgers (3)||N/A||N/A|
|4||Tuesday, Oct. 15||Cardinals (4)||Dodgers (2)||N/A||N/A|
|5||Wednesday, Oct. 16||Cardinals (4)||Dodgers (6)||N/A||N/A|
|6||Friday, Oct. 18||Dodgers||Cardinals||8:30 p.m.||TBS|
|7 (if necessary)||Saturday, Oct. 19||Dodgers||Cardinals||8:30 p.m.||TBS|
Ace vs. Rising Star
Despite owning just nine career regular-season starts, Michael Wacha has looked like a superstar.
In Game 6, he'll test his might against the top pitcher in the National League, Clayton Kershaw.
Wacha has made two starts in the postseason, going 2-0 with 17 strikeouts and an ERA of 0.64. He tossed 6.2 shutout innings against L.A. during Game 2 and preceded that outing with 7.1 innings of one-run work against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
With the Dodgers' season on the line, they'll look to Kershaw to outduel the 22-year-old.
Kershaw finished the 2013 regular season at 16-9 with NL-best marks of a 1.84 ERA, 232 strikeouts and a 0.92 WHIP. Regardless of which team you support, there isn't a case to be made for a National League player to win the Cy Young Award over Kershaw.
Now, he'll need to prove he's not just an ace but also the latest incarnation of Captain Clutch.
For a player who is poised to become the highest-paid athlete in baseball, Kershaw is certainly under pressure entering this game. Fortunately, he's allowed just one earned run through three postseason starts and has pitched under pressure before.
Don't be shocked to see Wacha match Kershaw pitch for pitch, but in this season-altering elimination game, the ace is known.
Can St. Louis Close?
Since 2004, the Cardinals have made three World Series appearances and won two titles. Albert Pujols won MVP three times, Chris Carpenter took home the 2005 Cy Young Award, and the Cardinals routinely built up promising rosters.
But can the Cardinals close?
St. Louis already lost Game 5 to bring the series to 3-2.
Some teams play better as underdogs than they do as favorites, and that could be the case with St. Louis. Having already lost Game 5, St. Louis will now be tasked with taking down Kershaw in Game 6.
It's hard to call a team that has two World Series titles since 2006 choke artists, so I won't even attempt to do so. With that being established, St. Louis seems to have an "us against the world" mentality, and now the Cardinals are the favorites.
In Game 6, the Cardinals will turn to a 22-year-old pitcher to right the ship.
As exciting as it's been to watch Wacha hit the mound and hold his own against the league's elite, it's impossible to rationally bet against Kershaw. He's the best pitcher in the National League, and he's been dominant for the better part of half a decade.
It's time the 25-year-old takes his legacy to a new level by throwing a gem in must-win territory.
Kershaw has already appeared in three games during the 2013 playoffs, allowing just one run during that time. He's more than capable of shining under pressure, and with the Dodgers' season on the line, there isn't a better player to be pitching.
Look for Kershaw to win what is set to be a close, hard-fought battle between two teams displaying a sense of urgency. Wacha will be very strong, but when it comes down to it, betting against Kershaw rarely works out.
Prepare for a pitchers' duel in which the ultimate ace will prevail.
Dodgers 3, Cardinals 1