Dodgers vs. Cardinals NLCS Game 5 preview: Zack Greinke looks to extend season

Dilip Vishwanat

The seven runs scored by the Dodgers are their fewest in the first four games of a postseason series since scoring two runs in the 1966 World Series.

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers didn't have much time to wallow in their grief after falling behind three games to one in the National League Championship Series, as their Game 4 loss to the Cardinals on Tuesday night is followed up with a day game Wednesday for Game 5, a game Los Angeles hopes doesn't end its season.

"I think you're going to be a little bit down. You're in the playoffs, so it's a big game for us, felt like we needed a win," manager Don Mattingly said after Tuesday night's 4-2 loss. "But on the back side of that, we'll bounce back and be ready to play tomorrow. I don't think we need to think about winning three. We need to win one. That's all we need to do is win one game. We've got a pretty good guy on the hill tomorrow. You feel like you're going to have a pretty good chance of winning tomorrow. So we'll see where it goes."

That guy on the hill for the Dodgers in Game 5 is Zack Greinke, who was masterful in Game 1. He allowed two runs in eight innings and struck out 10, and retired the last 14 batters he faced. Greinke was 4-1 with a 2.26 ERA in eight daytime starts in 2013, with 49 strikeouts and 12 walks in 51⅔ innings.

But how Greinke pitches might not matter. As we saw in Games 1 and 2 of the NLCS, having Greinke and Clayton Kershaw pitch well doesn't mean much if the Dodgers don't score.

The Dodgers have scored seven runs in four games, and are hitting just .223/.280/.309. But Maybe Greinke can help a little bit on offense. He hit .328/.409/.379, the first Dodgers pitcher in 94 years with a .400 on-base percentage (minimum 50 plate appearances).

Greinke is 0-for-5 in the playoffs, which is probably to be expected. I don't think anyone expects Greinke is actually a true .300 hitter. It also fits a pattern for Dodgers pitchers at the plate.

Orel Hershiser, who is broadcasting the NLCS for ESPN Radio, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Wednesday afternoon's Game 5. In Game 2 of the 1988 World Series, 25 years ago today (more on this game later Wednesday night), Hershiser pitched a three-hit shutout to beat the Athletics 6-0, and was also 3-for-3 at the plate with two doubles and a run batted in.

Since then, Dodgers pitchers are 2-for-67 (.030) at the plate in the playoffs, with only a pair of singles by Derek Lowe (in Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS) and Kershaw (in Game 2 of the 2013 NLCS). Since Hershiser, the only RBI by a Dodgers pitcher was driven in by Hyun-jin Ryu, with a sacrifice fly in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Braves.

Whether Greinke contributes or not at the plate, the Dodgers simply need to score runs. They put seven runners on base in the first three innings against Joe Kelly in Game 1 but were only able to score twice against him. Kelly was able to last six innings after the Dodgers failed to knock him out early.

"When those guys are on, you're going to try to bear down a little bit more. Obviously, you don't want them to score, and it's the playoffs. Every run definitely matters," Kelly said on Tuesday. You go out there, you know what kind of stuff you have to get guys out. If there are guys on base, you're going to try to do whatever can you to make sure he doesn't cross home plate."

It's not like the Cardinals are doing much better on offense, hitting only .148/.231/.234 with eight runs scored. St. Louis is 4-for-19 (.211) with a sacrifice fly with runners in scoring position.

"I mean, same thing as always," Greinke said. "If you make really good pitches it's not much the offense can do, but they haven't had many like lucky hits so they're probably due for a couple like flairs and ground balls that just no one can get to."

The Dodgers are 6-for-33 (.182) with runners in scoring position during the series.

Game 5 info

Time: 1:07 p.m.

TV: TBS

MLB Gameday

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