(BaseballStL) -- Sometimes, players come home as the conquering hero. David Freese became part of St. Louis folklore when he hit that fateful homer in 2011, and has been a local legend since.
Joe Kelly will get the other side of the stick, playing villain in Los Angeles for what could be the final game of the NLCS.
Kelly was born in Anaheim, but since the Angels are nowhere near a World Series team, Chavez Ravine will have to do for a homecoming.
"I'll probably have a few family and friends, not like during the regular season," he said. "But I'll have a good amount of people here supporting."
Far more will be cheering for an early exit from the 25-year-old. The Dodgers are facing elimination, and they get a second postseason look at Kelly, who went six innings and allowed two runs in the series' opening game marathon.
In his second playoff start, Kelly struck out five and walked two, allowing six hits. Now he faces LA again, with last week's contest still fresh in everyone's mind.
"Obviously they know what I've got, and I know what they've got. It's just going to be about executing pitches, ultimately," he said. "I'm not going to go out there and try to be a different kind of pitcher."
Kelly's identity on the mound has evolved all year, going from late-inning pitcher to long reliever to spot starter. Now, he finds himself making his second start in the NLCS.
Adaptation and modification has been something of the norm for the University of California at Riverside grad, who has learned quickly that the Major League level demands more than just a good heater.
"I didn't have four pitches when I was in college. I just had a good arm and I was just literally throwing it as hard as I could, trying to throw it low, down the middle and try to blow it by hitters," he said. "Hitters are a lot better, obviously, and you've kind of got 1 through 9, even the pitcher. You've got to learn how to pitch and use all four pitches and command all four pitches at this level."
His command of his arsenal has improved, but his ability to control the game is beginning to advance as well. Executing pitches is the first step, the next is identifying what pitches to execute and crafting a unique approach for hitters.
To that end, Kelly is learning from perhaps the best catcher in the game in Yadier Molina. The young Cardinal says even when not on the mound, he can feel Molina's impact.
"I feel it all the time. I mean, there are numerous times throughout this year where I'll be watching one of our fellow starters pitch, and he'd come up in between innings to me and fill me in on what just happened. Or, 'hey, did you see that with this hitter?' 'This is what we're going to try to do with this hitter,'" he said.
After a brief pause, he added, "And it also helps that you can throw a 30‑foot heater and spike it, and the guy blocks everything. That also helps. His defense is not too bad either."
Hopefully Kelly won't spike any 30-footers, but if he does, it might be the only time his fellow Californians cheer him.