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LOS ANGELES DODGERS (97-74) at ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (103-69)

Sportsbook.ag Line: Los Angeles -132 & 5.5 over -130

The Cardinals return home Friday and get a second chance to try and eliminate the Dodgers and advance to the World Series, but face a tall task against ace Clayton Kershaw.
 
Game 5 of this NLCS was filled with the most firepower yet, as the Dodgers pulled out a 6-4 victory, the highest scoring game of the series. This one appears likely to return to the norm of pitchers’ duels, however. Los Angeles is a road favorite with Kershaw (17-10, 1.73 ERA) toeing the rubber after the southpaw allowed just one unearned run over six innings in his 1-0 loss in Game 2. That was a rare win for the Cardinals, as they are just 21-25 (.457) against lefty starters in 2013. The winner of that game is also his opponent tonight, Michael Wacha (5-1, 2.38 ERA), who threw 6.2 scoreless innings in that contest.

While the Dodgers have played admirably well on the road this season, racking up a 46-39 (.541) record, beating the Cardinals at home is never easy, as St. Louis is 58-28 (.674) at Busch Stadium this season. They’ve yet to exert that dominance over Los Angeles though, as the teams are 6-6 against each other on the year and 3-3 at Busch Stadium.
 
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Kershaw (0.90 WHIP) is likely on his way to the Cy Young Award this season, posting incredible numbers all year long. He has 255 strikeouts in a whopping 255 innings while walking only 57 batters in that span and giving up 11 home runs. He also does not suffer from pitching on the road, where he has a 1.99 ERA and 0.89 WHIP, leading the Dodgers to a 12-6 record in those games. He is also showing no signs of slowing down, allowing just one earned run in his past three starts (0.47 ERA, 0.68 WHIP). He did nothing to deserve to lose his first start against the Cardinals this series, though that was his third consecutive losing decision against the Redbirds in 2013. In his career, he is 4-6 (team 6-8) against St. Louis with a 3.41 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.

While OF Carlos Beltran (5-for-24, 9 K's), 2B Matt Carpenter (3-for-15, 2 K's) and 3B David Freese (4-for-17, 2 K's) have all struggled versus the lefty, OF Matt Holliday (10-for-35, 1 HR, 10 walks) is the one hitter in their lineup who has had some degree of consistent success against Kershaw, who is 1-2 with a 2.88 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in his postseason career. Though Kershaw (7.1 innings per start) doesn’t typically need much bullpen help because he tends to give them leads and not many innings to work, it’s important for manager Don Mattingly to know he can feel comfortable turning to the unit that has a 3.46 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 2013. Those numbers are actually slightly better on the road (3.45 ERA, 1.25 WHIP). During the NLCS, Dodgers relievers have a 2.35 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 15.1 innings, fanning 16, but also issuing nine walks.
 
Wacha (1.03 WHIP) has been absolutely brilliant in his rookie season, despite his team's 5-6 record when he starts. This includes a 3-4 mark at Busch Stadium, where he has a 3-1 record, 2.25 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in seven starts. Like Kershaw, Wacha has only been getting better late in the season, producing a 3-0 record, 0.40 ERA and 0.59 WHIP in his past three starts, giving up only one run and seven hits in 22.2 innings with 26 K's and just five walks. Game 2 of the NLCS was his only career start against the Dodgers and none of their hitters seemed to figure him out—the five hits he allowed (4 singles, 1 double) were dispersed over five people. He also had eight strikeouts and only one walk in that game.

Wacha doesn’t quite yet have Kershaw’s endurance, averaging only 6.2 innings per start this year, but he's tossed 7.6 innings per start in his past three starts. He still has the comfort of a strong bullpen behind him, as Cardinals relievers have a 3.36 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 2013, though that ERA jumps to 3.60 at Busch Stadium, despite an improved 1.21 WHIP. During the NLCS, St. Louis relievers have been outstanding, going 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, two saves, 16 K's and just four walks over 17 innings.

  
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