Three keys for Cards to clinch NLDS in Game 4
ST. LOUIS -- With a win on Monday, the Cardinals set themselves up with an opportunity to end their best-of-five National League Division Series without a return trip to Los Angeles. Of the 22 teams to take a 2-1 advantage in the NLDS previously, 18 have gone on to advance to the next round.
Game 4 (Tuesday at 4 p.m. CT on FOX Sports 1) will pit postseason newcomer Shelby Miller against the game's best pitcher, though the Cardinals made Clayton Kershaw appear far from it in Game 1. Miller will be pitching on two weeks' rest; Kershaw will be on three days'.
With the chance to play in the NL Championship Series for a ninth time since 2000 on the line, here are three keys for the Cardinals to finish off the Dodgers in front of their home fans.
Get into the Dodgers' bullpen: Los Angeles' relievers were a concern coming into the postseason, and they have certainly proved leaky thus far. In Game 1, Matt Holliday drilled Pedro Baez for a three-run blast that proved to be essential in a one-run win. J.P. Howell let the Cardinals get back into Game 2, and Scott Elbert sunk the Dodgers when he served up Kolten Wong's game-winning homer in Game 3. Unless the game gets to closer Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers aren't exactly confident in their relief corps.
With the Dodgers opting to pitch Kershaw on short rest, manager Don Mattingly suggested that his starter will be limited to a pitch count of around 90. That bodes well for the Cardinals' attempts to get a crack at doing damage against the Los Angeles 'pen again.
Miller commanding his complementary pitches: The backbone of Miller's second-half surge was the use of his secondary pitches, most notably a two-seam fastball and a curveball. The sinker was a revelation of sorts, with Miller taking the grip Justin Masterson has long used and finding that he could induce earlier contact with the pitch. The curveball was a pitch Miller always had, but he started throwing it more often upon catcher Yadier Molina's return from the disabled list.
If Miller wants his best pitch (the four-seam fastball) to be effective, he'll need the other two to be working for him. Those pitches can keep the Dodgers from sitting on Miller's fastball and also increase the chances of Miller keeping the pitch count lower and therefore going deeper into the game.
Continued left-vs.-left success: The Cardinals' left-handed batters have had uncanny success against the Dodgers' left-handed pitching in this series, and with Kershaw going, the Cardinals hope that continues. Kershaw will be the third lefty starter the Cardinals will have faced in four games. Matt Carpenter, Jon Jay and Matt Adams each had an RBI hit against Kershaw in Game 1. Carpenter drove in four runs off him.
Combined, the Cardinals' left-handed batters are 14-for-32 against lefties through Game 3. Carpenter (6-for-11), Adams (2-for-7), Jay (4-for-7) and Wong (1-for-3) will all likely be in the Game 4 lineup.