After a week spent discussing the history and forthcoming matchups in the NL Division Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals, the two teams will at last take the field Friday for the highly-anticipated Game 1.
The Dodgers send Clayton Kershaw to the mound and plenty of eyes will be on the lefty with the expectation that he duplicates his regular-season success. Much is expected of Kershaw, but is he the Dodgers’ X-factor in Game 1?
Our Dodgers Nation staff weighed in:
Matthew Moreno (@MMoreno1015): At the risk of it being cliche, my answer is Kershaw. However, it isn’t necessarily his overall game, but rather his need to put hitters away.
Kershaw’s meltdown in Game 6 of the 2013 NLCS can in a sense be traced to the third-inning at-bat Matt Carpenter had against the Dodger ace. Carpenter saw 11 pitches before hitting a one-out double and the Cardinals went on to score four runs in the inning.
Carpenter hit .272 this season and is a career .278 batter against Kershaw in 18 at-bats. For as great as the left-hander was this season, he at times struggled against players who aren’t necessarily considered strong at the plate.
Sometimes a player gets the better of you, but if Kershaw takes any sort of sigh of relief, it could cost him and the Dodgers.
Jeff Spiegel (@JeffSpiegel): With right-hander Wainwright on the mound, the Dodgers are going to need some production from the left side of the plate — enter Adrian Gonzalez.
As one of the best hitters in the league and a veteran presence in the clubhouse, the Dodgers are going to lean on Gonzalez in Game 1 in hopes of setting the tone offensively. If the Dodgers can get a few runs off of Wainwright, it will go a long way towards their confidence the remainder of the series.
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