COMMENTARY | The Los Angeles Dodgers return to Chavez Ravine tonight for Game 3 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Though they had the best 1-2 punch in baseball on the hill in St. Louis in the form of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the Dodgers' offense failed to show up and Don Mattingly continued to show why he's one of the worst strategic managers in the game with mistake after mistake. As a result, the Cards lead the series two to nil.
The Blue Crew will face Cards ace Adam Wainwright in Game 3, a tough task at any point and an especially difficult one with the offense struggling, key players hurt, and the season on the line. It will be exceptionally tough, but the Dodgers are capable of beating Wainwright and getting back in the series.
Here are four reasons why they will win the game and make this a series once again:
Wainwright's counterpart is Hyun-Jin Ryu, and as I mentioned in my prediction post on Friday, the Cardinals struggle greatly to hit left-handed pitching.
Hyun-Jin has only faced the Cards once this season, throwing seven innings of one-unearned run ball on August 8 in St. Louis. Ryu allowed just five base runners, didn't issue a walk, and whiffed seven.
Another dominant start from Ryu, especially one that can save the pen and allow for marginal offensive contributions from his mates, would do wonders toward making this a 2-1 NLCS.
This is dependent upon Ethier actually playing, as he was forced to just pinch-hit in Game 2 due to soreness following a Game 1 start, which is not all that surprising an occurrence considering he had not started a game in forever.
Dre has had great success against Wainwright in his career. Andre has posted a slash line of .303/.361/.667/1.028 with three homers, three doubles, and 7 RBIs in 36 career plate appearances against the St. Louis righty.
If he's healthy enough to start in center again, he'll add a potent weapon to a Blue Crew offense desperately in need of one after Hanley Ramirez's injury and failure after failure in the first two games of this series. Wainwright has taken care of the rest of the Dodgers' batters with relative ease over his career, so Dre's previous success is even more important.
How much home-field advantage actually helps I don't know, and it ranks low on my list of reasons for anything to occur. But if it were ever to play a role, it should be tonight in the Dodgers' first NLCS game at home in years and with the team in a must-win situation with its back against the wall.
The Dodgers already have plenty of motivation and incentive to not go down meekly, even against a great St. Louis team, so being at home with the home fans won't increase that. But they are at home for the next three games, and I would bet plenty in the organization see it as an advantage.
If you put enough runners on base some of them will eventually score based on the percentages alone, especially when you add in talented hitters like Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, and -- should health allow them to play -- HanRam and Ethier.
The Dodgers and Cards have both had excellent pitching and poor offense, with the Dodgers being a little worse when it comes to the latter. If the Dodgers can continue to reach base -- which they did enough of in the first two games -- and push across a run or two, it could be enough to get L.A. back in the series if its pitching continues to impress.
Greg Zakwin is the founder of Plaschke, Thy Sweater Is Argyle, a Dodgers' and sports card blog. He writes with an analytical tilt about The Blue Crew at ChadMoriyama.com. You can find and follow him on Twitter @ArgyledPlaschke. A graduate of UCLA in 2011 with a Bachelor's in History, he's been a follower of the Dodgers since birth and still mourns the loss of both Mike Piazza and Carlos Santana.
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