After four days off, the Los Angeles Dodgers will finally take on the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series.
Looking to avenge their 2013 NLCS loss, the Dodgers should be ready to go. This year is different, as they have the home-field advantage and the Cardinals starting pitching is not as strong as it was last year.
Before Game 1, we provide the Dodgers with three keys to victory:
1. Back Up Your Ace
Clayton Kershaw has been far and away the best pitcher in baseball this season and the Dodgers will need to help him out in the first game. The defense will need to make the play behind him and the offense will need to provide some run support. An advantage for the Dodgers is playing at home, meaning the defense should know their field better than anyone. Hanley Ramirez must focus in at shortstop, as Kershaw can ill-afford any errors behind him.
The offense has a tough task going up against Adam Wainwright, but they also come into the game as one of the best offenses in the final month of the season. Kershaw shouldn’t need much help and a few early runs would come a long way in calming their ace down on the mound.
2. Be Aggressive On The Bases
One of the biggest advantages the Dodgers have over the Cardinals is speed. Dee Gordon, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig and even Hanley Ramirez all have the ability to change an inning and the game with their speed. Gordon led the league in stolen bases with 64, while Crawford and Ramirez stole 23 and 14, respectively. Puig can change the game with his speed once the ball is put in play, as he struggles with stealing bases.
The Dodgers go up against one of the better defensive catchers in Yadier Molina, and must pick their spots wisely when they do decide to make a move. One stolen base can change the outcome of the game. Also, taking the extra base any time they can can go a long way in helping the offense out.
3. Don Mattingly Needs To Trust His Guys
In last year’s playoffs, Don Mattingly was often criticized for his in-game managing decisions. His reluctance to rely on same-handedness matchups and double switches may have cost the Dodgers a few times last year. Another year and Mattingly should be wiser, although some of his decisions during the season prove otherwise.
Mattingly needs to trust his guys in the bullpen, regardless of matchups, and if they are throwing well, then continue to let them throw. It’s the postseason and all the numbers, stats and history don’t matter anymore. Mattingly must have faith in his team and let them do what they did throughout the year—- win.