USA TODAY Sports' Jorge L. Ortiz breaks down the NL Championship Series between the Dodgers and Cardinals:
The matchups (All games on TBS):
Game 1 - Dodgers' Zack Greinke (15-4, 2.63 ERA) vs. Cardinals' Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69 ERA), today, 8:37 ET.
Game 2 - Clayton Kershaw (16-9, 1.83) vs. Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78), Saturday, 4:07 ET.
Game 3 - Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-8, 3.00) vs. Adam Wainwright (19-9, 2.94), Monday, 8:07 p.m. ET.
Game 4 - Tuesday, 8:07 p.m.
Game 5 - Wednesday, 4:07 p.m. ET.
Game 6, Oct. 18, 8:37 p.m. ET.
Game 7, Oct. 19, 8:37 p.m. ET.
OCTOBER: Postseason schedule, results
Why the Dodgers will win: They again have their two aces, Greinke and Kershaw, lined up to start the first two games and as many as four total, nearly all on full rest. The duo pitched a combined 19 innings and allowed three earned runs in the division series. Los Angeles' offense is clicking, batting .333 with a .962 on-base-plus-slugginng percentage in the first round against the Atlanta Braves. The Dodgers have found an effective setup man in Brian Wilson to get the ball to overpowering closer Kenley Jansen.
Why the Cardinals will win: They have the pitching depth to win over several games. The Dodgers are more top-heavy, but St. Louis could plug in hard-throwing Shelby Miller as the No. 4 starter for Lance Lynn, who struggled in the division series. St. Louis' power-laden offense can strike quickly with the likes of playoff star Carlos Beltran and Matt Adams. The sure-handed Cardinals don't beat themselves with errors, which can be a decisive factor in the close games that are typical of the postseason.
Watch out for this guy: Andre Ethier. The three days off could prove a salve for the lefty-swinging outfielder, who has been moving better as he tries to bounce back from a leg injury. Ethier was limited to pinch-hitting duties in the NLDS but may return to center field. He's a career .309 hitter against right-handers and the Cardinals don't have any lefty starters.
What's worked for the Dodgers: Most of the lineup. Of the top six hitters, Mark Ellis (.267) is the only one who batted below .333 in the Division Series. Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Juan Uribe all drove in at least four runs and hit better than .330, and Yasiel Puig (.471) is hot as well.
What's worked for the Cardinals: Having a stud starter in Adam Wainwright, who won two games in the NLDS while yielding two runs in 16 innings. St. Louis gave Wainwright early runs and he made them stand up. The experience of having played in the postseason in four of the last five years also benefits the Cardinals, who don't panic. Down 2-1 to the Pirates in the first round, they won the next two by holding Pittsburgh to one run in each.
What worries the Dodgers: The back of the rotation. Hyun-Jin Ryu, so sharp most of the season, was a mess in Game 3 vs. Atlanta, lasting just three innings and allowing four runs. L.A. did not have enough faith in likely Game 4 starter Ricky Nolasco, who had a 12.75 ERA in his last three starts, to use him in the NLDS.
What worries the Cardinals: Matt Carpenter. The leadoff man hit a single in his second at-bat of the NLDS and has gone 0-for-17 since. Carpenter may have been the Cardinals' MVP in the regular season, and without him lining doubles all over the field, their offense tends to stall.
In the end: The clubs are evenly matched now and were also during the season, when L.A. took the series 4-3. The difference now is the Dodgers lineup is much hotter, which may turn the tables their way.
Not having Wainwright available until Game 3, after he pitched the NLDS finale, could prove a big blow to St. Louis. He might not be able to start a second game unless the series goes seven.
The Cardinals may be less intimidated than most teams about facing Kershaw after beating him twice in the regular season, but they were 19-23 in games started by a lefty and might have to do that four times in this series. That's where Allen Craig's injury absence really hurts. Dodgers in six.