As we near the finish line in the NLCS, the Dodgers face a tall task in winning two straight in St. Louis. The first two games saw Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw pitch... and two straight loses. So, it's obviously not an easy thing to do.
What the Dodgers did do right, however, was win two of three at home, so here we are back in Missouri for Game 6. Kershaw takes the mound on Friday, and if all goes right, Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 7.
How can the Dodgers pull this thing off? One thing if very clear: don't let Carlos Beltran do the damage.
Here's what people probably don't realize: Beltran is hitting only .200 this postseason, and a measly .176 against the Dodgers. So, he's basically been held in check.
But, it's hard to forget the Dodgers stubbornly pitching to him with bases open in Game 1. With two on and two out in third, he hit a two-run double off of Greinke. In the 13th with two on and one down, Kenley Jansen pitched to him and watched the game end on a single. Three RBIs for Beltran, 3-2 win for the Cardinals. Not exactly the smartest night in Dodger organizational history.
Since then he's only had one hit, an RBI triple in Game 5. What the Dodgers have smartly done is walk him instead of challenge him, with five in total. I don't care how good of a pitching staff they have, this guy is one of the best hitters in postseason history, and shouldn't be messed with.
With that in mind, Kershaw would be wise tonight to pick and choose his battles. If the bases are empty, go after him (at least somewhat). If runners are on and a base is open, don't give him anything to hit. There's no reason to risk leaving something over the plate to hammer, because he will. He's that good.
When the NLCS is all over with, win or lose, the Dodgers need to make sure they had the best gameplan they could to win. Pitching to a guy who's capable of carrying a team himself is not the way to get it done. Making the other guys around him get the big hits is.