The Dodgers and Cardinals will open the 2013 National League Championship Series with Zack Greinke and Joe Kelly on the mound in Game 1 on Friday night at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. Here are four themes heading into the series, headed again by shortstop Hanley Ramirez
The Hanley Factor
Stop me if you have heard this before, but when Ramirez is on the field the Dodgers have been a great team in 2013. But just like heading into the NLDS against the Braves, Ramirez has no regular season starts against the Cardinals this season. In fact, Ramirez hasn't even played against St. Louis this season, as he was on the disabled list with a hamstring strain in May and sidelined with a shoulder injury in August.
Ramirez in his first postseason series was 8-for-16 (.500) against the Braves and tied a Dodgers postseason series record with six extra-base hits. In 90 games this season, counting the NLDS, Ramirez has hit .353/.410/.659 with 29 doubles and 21 home runs.
The Dodgers are 54-27 including the playoffs when Ramirez starts this season.
Class of the National League
The two most storied franchises in National League history do battle for the fourth time in the postseason, and the first time in the NLCS since 1985. The Dodgers have 18 pennants and six World Series wins in their history, while the Cardinals have 18 pennants and 11 World Series wins (sorry San Francisco, nine of your 20 pennants and three of your seven World Series came before 1925).
But the Cardinals have established themselves as the cream of the crop of late, arguably the best organization in baseball. They have been to the NLCS eight times in 14 seasons, and have won two of the last seven World Series. They are the organization the new Dodgers aspire to be. This tweet from Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Disptach says it all.
Postseason wins by current NL Central teams since Bill DeWitt became STL owner in 1996 -- Cards 60, MIL 6, CHI 6, PITT 3, CIN 2.— Bernie Miklasz (@miklasz) October 10, 2013
The Dodgers lead the all-time regular season series against the Cardinals, 1,012-1,009. Counting the postseason, the Dodgers lead 1,018-1,016.
Runners in scoring position
The Cardinals hit a ridiculous .330/.402/.463 with runners in scoring position, the highest batting average with RISP on record in MLB dating back to at least 1916. The second-highest batting average in the last 98 years was .312 by the 1950 Red Sox, one of just seven teams since 1900 (two since 1937) to score 1,000 runs in a season.
What makes these Cardinals so tough?
"They are hard to strikeout, for one. Whenever you get into a situation where you need an out it's tough to get a strikeout. Also, they make adjustments. If you get them out one way, the next time it's kind of tough. Do you want to try to get them out the same way and they adjust to it, or do you switch your game plan up before they make an adjustment? There's not many holes," Greinke said during Thursday's media session. "This team, they have the ability to hit just about any pitch you throw."
In seven games against the Dodgers, the Cardinals hit .236/.338/.309 with runners in scoring position, including 1-for-7 with a hit by pitch against Greinke on Aug. 5 in St. Louis.
Hot & Cold
The best Dodgers this season against St. Louis were former Cardinal Nick Punto, who was 6-for-13 (.462) with two doubles and four walks; and Carl Crawford, who was 13-for-27 (.481) with four doubles and three walks. Yasiel Puig and Skip Schumaker were both 6-for-15 (.400) against the Cardinals.
The law firm struggled against St. Louis. Mark Ellis was 2-for-24 (.083) and A.J. Ellis was 3-for-20 (.150), though the latter did hit a game-winning three-run home run in St. Louis on Aug. 8.
The best Cardinals against the Dodgers in 2013 included David Freese, who was 8-for-21 (.381) with four doubles and a home run; Yadier Molina, who was 4-for-9 (.444) with two doubles; and Pete Kozma, who was 6-for-19 (.316) with four doubles.
Time: 5:37 p.m.