Two pitchers will take the hill on Saturday in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. One has been nearly unhittable the last two times he's pitched. And the other is Clayton Kershaw.
Runs figure to be at a premium tonight, as Michael Wacha and the St. Louis Cardinals try to go up two games to none on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the best-of-seven series at Busch Stadium.
Wacha has been the early story of this postseason, as he nearly no-hit the Pittsburgh Pirates in a season-saving win for the Cardinals in Game 4 of the NLDS. The 22-year-old righty took a no-hitter into the eighth in a stellar 7 1/3-inning, nine-strikeout performance to help the Cards force a fifth and deciding game.
"Why he's been able to be successful so far is that he has trusted himself," Cards manager Mike Matheny said of Wacha. "He's trusted the game plan that's put in front of him. He's trusted his catcher. He's trusted his stuff. Then it comes down to taking the distractions and minimizing them."
Of course, Wacha came within an out of no-hitting the Washington Nationals in his final start in the regular season.
"I'm definitely looking forward to pitching in front of this home crowd. It's going to be a lot of fun," said Wacha, who has never faced the Dodgers. "Just watching them on TV, it's a great ballclub and definitely a dangerous lineup. I'm just going to have to go out there and make pitches."
Kershaw, meanwhile, is likely headed toward another NL Cy Young Award after a remarkable regular season that saw him go 16-9 and lead the major leagues with a minuscule 1.83 ERA and an NL-best 232 strikeouts.
It was the fourth consecutive season that Kershaw tallied 200 or more strikeouts. He also allowed a .195 batting average -- .202 to right-handed hitters and .165 to left-handed hitters.
The postseason spotlight hasn't fazed him one bit, as Kershaw went 1-0 against the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS and pitched to a 0.69 ERA in two starts, the last one, of course, came on three days' rest and secured the Dodgers' series win.
"You guys make a big deal about three days' rest," he told a room full of reporters before the NLCS opener. "I never made a big deal out of it. (Dodgers manager Don Mattingly) never made a big deal out of it. ... I mean, no offense, but I'm just kind of tired of it."
Over his last 11 starts, including his two postseason starts, Kershaw is 6-2 with a remarkable 1.46 ERA.
Kershaw, though, lost both of his starts to the Cardinals this season and pitched to a 4.15 ERA in doing so.
Kershaw will need to be aware of St. Louis' Carlos Beltran, who drove in all three runs in the Cardinals' thrilling 3-2 win in 13 innings in Game 1.
Of the five previous times the Cards won the first game of the NLCS (home or away), they advanced to the World Series three times.
"We have had our fair share of extra-inning games, but none more special than that one," second baseman Matt Carpenter said. "Winning Game 1 is huge, especially in that fashion. Whether they want to admit it or not, winning that game in that kind of scenario, that's a tough way to lose a game."
Beltran had tied the game with a two-run double in the third inning, but hours later stroked a one-out hit toward the right field corner off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen to score Daniel Descalso from second base with the winning run.
"It was a good team win," shortstop Pete Kozma said, before slightly altering his wording. "A good team Carlos win today."
They weren't the only heroics for Beltran, who also gunned a runner down at home for an inning-ending double play in the 10th.
Perhaps the best postseason hitter of this generation, Beltran now has four game-winning postseason RBI in his career. He also has nine RBI in these playoffs.
"He's basically built up a resume as one of the greatest postseason hitters of all time," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said of Beltran. "We knew that coming in. When you compound that by giving him two 3-1 counts to hit in, he knows what to do."
Juan Uribe, who hit the homer Monday that got the NL West-champion Dodgers into the NLCS, had a two-run single in the third inning for LA's only runs in Game 1.
Lance Lynn (1-0) threw two innings to get the win and Chris Withrow (0-1) gave up a pinch-hit single to Descalso and walked Matt Carpenter in the 13th.
"It feels great coming back to the ballpark and knowing you've got Clayton on the mound," Ellis said. "We're going to do everything we can to earn the split."
The Dodgers were 4-3 against the Cardinals this season, including three wins in four games in St. Louis. Not having homefield advantage for this series may not matter, as Los Angeles was tied with Texas for the best road record in the majors in 2013, at 45-36.
This series will shift to Los Angeles for Game 3 on Monday.