(BaseballStL) – Clayton Kershaw is almost unanimously considered the best pitcher in baseball. He led the league in ERA for the second straight year, and posted a WHIP of less than 1.0. He struck out 232 hitters in 236 innings, and walked only 52 hitters all year.
He also lost all three starts against St. Louis. Despite his dominance over the rest of the league, Kershaw has yet to best the Cardinals.
He will get a fourth chance Friday night as the Dodgers try to stave off elimination, and his teammates have no doubts he can finally best the Birds.
“With Kershaw, we’re fully comfortable he’s going to do the same job he did in Game 2,” said Adrian Gonzalez. “All we have to do is score for him.”
Kershaw would likely agree, since he lost despite giving up only one (unearned) run in six innings in his first NLCS appearance.
Despite scoring six runs in Game 5, the Dodgers have had a hard time finding success against the Cardinal pitching. Michael Wacha kept them in check in Game 2, stiking out eight and allowing no runs in 6.2 innings.
Gonzalez said after Game 5 he expects the results to be different a second time around.
“He’s a guy I never faced before Game 2; and he’s a great pitcher,” Gonzalez said. “He’s got great stuff, great changeup, great fastball. But now that we’ve faced him and we can have an idea how he’s going to attack us, we can make our adjustments and feel more confident definitely seeing him a second time.”
Friday will be Wacha’s first time starting against the same team twice. Cincinnati, Chicago and Atlanta all saw the young pitcher on multiple occassions, but he was used in relief in one of the matchups (both in Atlanta’s case).
Game 6 will illuminate whether Wacha is a one-time wonder or a legitmate top-tier starter. He gets the benefit of a home crowd again, though to hear Dodger manager Don Mattingly talk, the Cardinals might be underdogs on their own field.
“I think if you look at it now we’ve kind of become America’s team because everyone wants to see a seventh game,” he said. “Probably even the fans in St. Louis would like to see a seventh game, so I figure that everybody’s for us to win on Friday night.”
That may be a stretch, but he’s certainly correct in suggesting the entire baseball world will be watching. Now we wait to see if Wacha takes a seat at the big table or Kershaw reminds the world why he’s considered the best pitcher in baseball.
The way this series has gone, it may be both.