Kelly earns Game 1 start, will be matched by Greinke -

Kelly earns Game 1 start, will be matched by Greinke

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By John Bailey By John Bailey

(BaseballStL) -- The Los Angeles Dodgers rotation has been a storyline all season long. Led by left-handed wizard Clayton Kershaw, the mighty Blue threw an MLB-best 22 shutouts en route to a 3.25 team ERA. 

At least Kershaw, but likely Zach Grienke and perhaps even Hyun-Jin Ryu have name recognition from coast to coast. 

Joe Kelly less so.

The 25-year-old began the year in the bullpen. He lost the fifth starter contest to pal Shelby Miller, and was used in every role from middle reliever, to ninth inning mop up work, to spot starter. 

Now he starts Game 1 of the NLCS. 

"Joe's earned this," said Mike Matheny Thursday after the announcement. "When he got his chance he made the most of it. So when the starting opportunity became available, it was obvious. Then Joe just continued to push and work and show us that he's ready for an opportunity like this one."

Kelly's first opportunity came in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Pirates. In the face of more than 40,000 fans attempting to rattle him, the young pitcher threw 5.1 innings, giving up two earned runs and five hits while striking out five. 

The Cardinals ultimately lost, but Kelly showed poise and skill; enough to earn  Game 1 start, something he said he can't wait for. 

"Being a little kid, it's something you look forward to- just getting to the playoffs," he said. "To be named a Game 1 starter, when he told me that, I got chills and goosebumps."

Kelly will be matched by Zach Greinke, a 15 game winner with a 2.63 ERA. Despite a lopsided marquis (at least in name recognition), the California native says he doesn't care who is on the mound other than himself.

"You've got to kind of focus on yourself and what your team is doing and just making pitches," he said. "Not worrying about if this guy is throwing a perfect game or no hitter. You don't want to be the pitcher on the other side going, 'great, If i give up a run, it's over.'"

Evidence would support his adherence to that philosophy. Kelly started against the Dodgers once in 2013. In an early August matchup the slender righty threw 5.1 innings, scattering five hits to allow only a run. His counterpart that that day was Clayton Kershaw. 

Game 1 will be at 7:37 in St. Louis Friday.  


JJ Bailey covers the Cardinals for and the BaseballStL app. Follow him on twitter @TheJJBailey and on @baseballstl_app for updates. 

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