ST. LOUIS -- At this time last year, Michael Wacha was watching the playoffs on TV.
Now the St. Louis Cardinals right-hander will start Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday against Cy Young Award favorite Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers in what promises to be a low-scoring, high-strikeout pitching duel.
"It's going to be unbelievable facing that guy," Wacha said Friday before Game 1. "You just try not to pay attention too much to who is pitching on the other side. Our job is to go out there and throw up zeroes as much as we can."
That hasn't been a problem for Wacha in his last two starts. He came within a Ryan Zimmerman infield single of no-hitting the Washington Nationals on Sept. 24, then took a no-hitter into the eighth inning on Monday in a 2-1 National League Division Series win at Pittsburgh that saved St. Louis from elimination.
Wacha has allowed two hits and one runs in his last 16 innings, walking four and striking out 18.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Wacha has been able to minimize distractions that can often derail players in the postseason.
"He's trusted the game plan that's put in front of him," Matheny said. "He's trusted his catcher. He's trusted his stuff. He did a great job in Pittsburgh, and hopefully he can continue to do that here in this series."
Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly was satisfied with Andre Ethier's workout during practice on Thursday and gave him the start in center field for Game 1 on Friday night.
Ethier wasn't able to start in the Dodgers' NLDS series with Atlanta because of an ankle injury. He pinch-hit in all four games, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a walk. During the regular season, Ethier batted .272 with 12 homers and 52 RBIs.
"At first, it wasn't as good as I would have liked, but as the day went on, he got better and better out there in center," Mattingly said of Ethier. "He goes, does a lot of things, making turns. So it feels like at least he's back today."
Mattingly isn't sure how Ethier will respond Saturday after Game 1, or that he'll be able to play Game 2. But Ethier's return clearly lengthens a lineup that helped Los Angeles roar back from a 30-42 start to run away with the NL West.
"It feels good to get him back in there," Mattingly said.
NOTES: The Dodgers surprised many when they opted for a bullpen with only one left-hander, J.P. Howell, on their NLCS roster. They sat down LHPs Paco Rodriguez and Chris Capuano in favor of veteran RHPs Carlos Marmol and Edinson Volquez. ... St. Louis 1B Allen Craig (Lisfranc sprain) was left off the team's NLCS roster, his foot clearly not close to 100 percent. The Cardinals hope that Craig will be available for the World Series, where he could serve as a designated hitter in either Boston or Detroit. ... Mattingly said LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu would start Game 3 and RHP Ricky Nolasco would start Game 4. Matheny hasn't made a decision on his Game 4 starter, although it could be either RHPs Shelby Miller or Lance Lynn.