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Dee Gordon a key difference in Dodgers-Cardinals rematch

In an NLCS rematch between a pair of second-place teams with a lot of similarities, second base may give the Dodgers an edge.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers return home looking to continue their good play of late in an NLCS rematch against the Cardinals, a battle between two teams that have shared experiences in 2014.

The Dodgers are 44-36 and trail the National League West by three games. The Cardinals are 43-36 and trail the NL Central by 4½ games. Both teams are behind teams that didn't make the playoffs in 2013.

Neither Los Angeles nor St. Louis has lost more than three games in a row. The Dodgers have only a pair of three-game losing streaks while the Cardinals have three, but St. Louis made up for it with a pair of four-game winning streaks and even a five-game win streak while the Dodgers have had five three-game winning streaks but none longer.

One big difference between the two teams has been at second base, where the Dodgers have seen a much smoother transition than the Cardinals.

Kolten Wong is the heir apparent to the second base job in St. Louis, though he is currently on the disabled list with a right shoulder contusion. When healthy though Wong has hit just .228/.282/.304 with nine steals in 45 games. Old friend Mark Ellis signed with the Cardinals as a mentor and safety valve, but so far is hitting just .202/.292/.235. Those two have combined to start 73 of 79 games at second base.

Dee Gordon, meanwhile, has taken the Dodgers' second base job and run with it, literally. He leads the majors with 40 stolen bases, the third-fastest a Dodger has ever reached 40 steals in a season.

Gordon had four hits, including his major-league-best ninth triple of the season, in Wednesday's win in Kansas City, his third four-hit game of the season and eight game of three or more hits in 2014. The second baseman is hitting .285/.340/.405 and has been one of the bright spots of the season for the Dodgers.

Gordon has a hit in each of his last five starts, and on the six-game road trip was 8-for-21 (.381) with two triples, three walks (.458 on-base percentage) and six runs scored.

Whether Gordon is able to do any running against the great Yadier Molina remains to be seen. Molina has thrown out 15 of 32 runners attempting to steal, a 46.9-percent rate that tops the National League and is second in the majors among catchers with at least 20 games, behind only Robinson Chirinos of Texas (47.6 percent).

Gordon in his career has stolen one base in three attempts against Molina.

But in the stolen base equation, there is more than just the runner and the catcher. Unfortunately for Gordon, Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright has allowed all of seven stolen bases in 15 attempts since the beginning of 2012, his last 81 starts.

Then again, maybe it's just because hardly anyone ever gets on base against Wainwright. The right-hander is 10-3 with a 2.08 ERA this season, and opposing hitters are hitting .200/.244/.290 on the season. Since the beginning of 2012 among pitchers with at least 50 starts, Wainwright's .284 on-base percentage allowed ranks 11th in the majors (Clayton Kershaw is first at .254, in case you were wondering).

Opposing batters are hitting just .201/.270/.356 this season against Josh Beckett, another pleasant surprise for the Dodgers. Beckett is 5-4 with a 2.28 ERA, making Thursday night's battle at Dodger Stadium a showdown against the No. 2 and No. 3 ERAs in the National League.

Beckett, who threw a no-hitter on May 25, is coming off his second-best start of the year, pitching seven scoreless innings against the Padres on Saturday with eight strikeouts. His 24.4-percent strikeout rate this season is his best since 2003, and in June he has been even better.

In four June starts Beckett is 2-2 with a 1.73 ERA with a 26.5-percent strikeout rate, totaling 27 strikeouts and just five walks in his 26 innings.

Game info

Time: 7:10 p.m. PT

TV: SportsNet LA, MLB Network