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NLCS Game 5 Preview: Dodgers' Backs Against the Wall


National League Championship Series – Game 5
St. Louis at Los Angeles
3:07 ET TBS
Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69) vs. Zack Greinke (15-4, 2.63)

There’s no question that pitching has outshone hitting in this series. And there’s no reason to believe that trend will not continue in Game 5. Facing elimination, the Dodgers now must win three in a row. But they have to look no further for inspiration than to their fiercest rival, the San Francisco Giants. Last year at this point, the Cardinals led the Giants three-games-to-one, only to see the Giants rally to win three straight. There is one major difference: the Dodgers must win two in St. Louis, while the Giants had the luxury of playing Games 6 and 7 in San Francisco. In tight games, there is no margin for error in the field or on the bases, and both teams have had costly lapses. On the mound, this is a rematch of Game 1. Both Zack Greinke and Joe Kelly gave up three runs in the third inning, but neither figured in the decision in the 13-inning St. Louis win.

Keys for Los Angeles
Aside from the fact that Greinke must continue to pitch well, the Dodgers must replace the production of shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who left last night’s game in the seventh inning with discomfort from a cracked rib. If he plays in Game 5, he will not be 100 percent, so his teammates must take up the slack of not having their cleanup hitter.

Keys for St. Louis
Somehow the Redbirds keep winning despite not getting off the ground offensively. The bats have been silenced by the Dodgers’ pitching staff. The inept offensive stats are staggering. The Cardinals have only 19 hits, 13 walks and have whiffed 35 times. They are batting .148 with a .231 slugging percentage, yet they are up three-games-to-one. There’s no doubt the Cardinals remember the pain of losing three straight to the Giants last season, so that sting should serve as added incentive to end the series quickly. The bullpen continues to perform well and creates a security blanket for the starting pitchers. They know they don’t have to go deep into games and can ramp up their intensity early in the game.

Dodgers to Watch
Greinke must be up to the task of getting this series back to St. Louis for Game 6 so the Dodgers will live to fight another day. Two years ago, he lost Game 5 of the NLCS to the Cardinals as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. This St. Louis lineup is a bit different without Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman.  

Cardinals to Watch
Look for manager Mike Matheny to try to jump start his offense with the running game. The Cardinals don’t steal bases, but they have some excellent hit-and-run guys in Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso. Runs will be tough to come by against Greinke, so tonight’s offense could come from unexpected sources like Jay and Descalso.

Key Stats
The Dodgers have outhit the Cardinals 31 to 19. In four games, the Cardinals have outscored the Dodgers just eight to seven…Combined, the teams have attempted just two stolen bases. When these teams met in the 1985 NLCS, they combined for 16 attempts in the six-game series…Shane Robinson, who homered last night, has more RBIs (1) than the Cardinals’ 4-5-6 hitters (Matt Adams, Molina and David Freese) combined…The Dodgers haven’t homered in the first four games. They had only three stretches as long as four games in the regular season without a home run, only once — a six-game stretch — in the second half.