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NLCS Game 4 Preview: Dodgers Host St. Louis


National League Championship Series – Game 4
St. Louis at Los Angeles
7:07 ET TBS
Ricky Nolasco (13-11, 3.70) vs. Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97)

The Cardinals were about to have the Dodgers by the throat on the cusp of a three-games-to-none lead, but Hyun-Jin Ryu was up to the task and the Cardinals weren’t. St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright deserved much better than what his teammates gave him last night. Defensively, the Redbirds didn’t make plays, and offensively they were stymied by Ryu. Ricky Nolasco, the Dodgers’ starter, will be making the first postseason start of his career. His counterpart, Lance Lynn, didn’t fare well in his start against Pittsburgh, but he pitched two scoreless innings to earn the win in Game 1. Through three games, this series has featured an aggregate .176 batting average. Perhaps, with Nolasco and Lynn on the hill, the hitters may have a fighting chance.

Keys for Los Angeles
Dodger pitching must continue to keep the St. Louis hitters off balance. Los Angeles hitting coach Mark McGwire, who spent the past three seasons with the same job in St. Louis, no doubt has offered some insight to the Dodgers’ pitchers as to some Cardinals’ weaknesses. The pitchers must continue to exploit those weaknesses. Good health is a key for the Dodgers as well. Center fielder Andre Ethier continues to be hindered by an ankle problem and shortstop Hanley Ramirez is playing with a cracked rib.

Keys for St. Louis
The bats must get going. It’s difficult to believe that the Cardinals have won two games with a batting average of .134 in this series. But that’s not likely to last. It all starts with Matt Carpenter at the top, and he’s shown a few signs that he may be coming out of his funk. Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina need to start chipping in with some run production as well. Lynn must be sharper than he was in his lone start against Pittsburgh in the NLDS. He gave up five earned runs in 4.1 innings.

Dodgers to Watch
Nolasco made two starts against St. Louis this season, one in Miami as a member of the Marlins and one in St. Louis as a Dodger. Nolasco won both games. The Dodgers won 11 of Nolasco’s 15 starts after they acquired him from Miami. However, in his final three starts, he allowed 17 earned runs in 12 innings (12.75 ERA) and opponents batted .393. That may be why Don Mattingly chose to skip him in the NLDS in favor of bringing Clayton Kershaw back on short rest. J.P. Howell will once again be a key piece of the Dodgers’ bullpen. He’s the lone lefty, and he’ll likely be asked to face the teeth of the Cardinals’ lineup once in the late innings. Offensively, Yasiel Puig has awakened and has been a thorn in the Cardinals’ side in more ways than one.

Cardinals to Watch
David Freese, who injured his calf last night, is questionable. Without him in the lineup, the Cardinals are fine defensively with Daniel Descalso, but Freese has a history of rising in October when the Cardinals need him most. Carlos Beltran and Jon Jay must shore up the Cardinals’ outfield defense. Jay, once regarded as a top center fielder, has struggled recently.

Key Stats
The projected Dodgers’ lineup is batting a combined .216 off Lynn with only two extra-base hits in 37 at-bats…The Cardinals were just 7-10 in Lynn’s 17 road starts this season, but he tossed six shutout innings in a win in May at Dodger Stadium…The projected Cardinals’ lineup is batting .371 off Nolasco…Hanley Ramirez is batting .455 this postseason with seven RBIs in six games…Against Atlanta and St. Louis in October, Dodgers pitchers have 66 strikeouts and have allowed just 41 hits and 21 walks…Yadier Molina (.286) is the only Cardinal regular hitting above .241 this postseason…Four regulars — David Freese (.192), Matt Holliday (.188), Jon Jay (.154) and Matt Carpenter (.100) — are hitting below the Mendoza Line.