Three keys for Cards to win NLDS Game 2
LOS ANGELES -- A relieved Mike Matheny said after the Cardinals' improbable 10-9 victory over the Dodgers on Friday that he hoped his club would "chew on this a while." But once the emotional high passes and the Cardinals turn their attention to Game 2 of this best-of-five National League Division Series, they'll see another tough task ahead in Zack Greinke.
In a matchup of starters Lance Lynn and Greinke, here are three keys for the Cardinals as they look to advance one win closer to a trip back to the NL Championship Series for a fourth straight season:
Lynn pitching through the sixth: Lynn made several strides forward in his career this year, chief among them showing an ability to control his emotions when things started to go awry around him. His next task is to show that he can dominate as a starter on the postseason stage. In all five of his previous playoff starts, Lynn has been chased from the game before finishing six innings. He's only pitched through the fifth twice.
After lasting just two innings in a blister-bothered start against the Dodgers in late June, Lynn finished six innings in 15 of his 16 final starts. He has a career .717 winning percentage when giving the Cardinals at least six innings in a start, and doing so again would also give the Cardinals an ability to set the back end of their bullpen up as desired.
Containing Yasiel Puig: Puig was a nuisance to the Cardinals in Game 1, reaching base five times, scoring three times and driving in one with one of his two hits. He has also been trouble for Lynn before, going 4-for-6 against the Cardinals right-hander in nine career plate appearances.
Puig entered October hot, as he hit .339 with four doubles, three homers and nine RBIs over the Dodgers' final 16 games. The Cardinals often run into him at his best, too, as Puig has batted a career .305/.431/.407 against them in 17 games (including the postseason). If the Cardinals can keep Puig off the bases in front of the heart of the Dodgers' order, they'll increase their chances of keeping down an offense that ranked second in the NL in most offensive categories this season.
Continued RISP success: The Cardinals don't hit enough home runs to be reliant on the long ball, which means they'll have to continue to scratch out run support with their typical labor-intensive approach of stringing together hits. It worked exceptionally well on Friday, as the Cardinals went 5-for-7 with runners in scoring position in the seventh inning alone. The Cardinals were used to that sort of clutch production in 2013, but it's been harder to find consistently in 2014.
With their own starting pitcher having allowed three or fewer earned runs in every one of his starts since June, the Cardinals may be able to make do with even modest run support for Lynn. Matt Carpenter (.333/.400/.556), Matt Holliday (.324/.359/.514) and Yadier Molina (.300/.313/.367) all have had notable success against Greinke, and that could be a boost as the club looks to roll over its offensive momentum from Game 1.