NLCS: Michael Wacha in spotlight again as Cardinals look to close out Dodgers

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ST. LOUIS — For four straight starts, Michael Wacha has been all but untouchable and appeared totally oblivious to the stakes.

The St. Louis Cardinals need one more just like that from the pressure-proof rookie to get to the World Series for the second time in three years.

Wacha outpitched NL Cy Young front-runner Clayton Kershaw in Game 2 and the Cardinals won 1-0 on an unearned run to take a 2-0 series lead. They’re matched again in Game 6 Friday night, the precocious right-hander and the lefty who’d be at the top of anyone’s list to work a must-win.

This time, the Cardinals lead the Los Angeles Dodgers 3-2.

“I just expect Michael to go out and do what he’s done, just like the rest of our guys,” manager Mike Matheny said. “Stick with what you’ve done all along the way, and don’t ignore and don’t deny the excitement.”

The Dodgers brought the series back to St. Louis by muscling up on offense, with Adrian Gonzalez hitting two of their four homers in a 6-4 Game 5 victory Wednesday.

Runs figure to be hard to come by in Game 6, although pitchers won’t have shadows as an ally with a 7:37 p.m. CDT start. Game 2 had a late afternoon start with shadows creeping across Busch Stadium especially in the early innings and lights providing no real help, plus there was fatigue from the Cardinals‘ 13-inning win to open the series.

“I think you’ll see both clubs get better at-bats just from the standpoint of vision,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.

Mattingly was hopeful both Hanley Ramirez (ribs) and Andre Ethier (ankle) would benefit from a travel day Thursday and be in the lineup.

“Andre, I expect to play. He just seems to get a little stronger,” Mattingly said. As for Ramirez, who was hit by a pitch in Game 1, “We don’t feel like he’s getting any worse. It’s just a matter of how the game goes for him.”

The Cardinals didn’t work out either, taking a bit of a mental break.

“We’ve had a lot of these lately,” Matheny said. “Going back and forth I can feel a little jet lag. The guys aren’t going to forget how to hit, forget how to throw.”

Kershaw is the major league ERA leader three years running and worked the Dodgers‘ division clincher against Atlanta on three days’ rest. He gave up just two hits in six innings of Game 1 and was ready to go long before the Dodgers‘ bats came alive.

“I don’t really think about the what-ifs,” Kershaw said. “I always assumed I was going to pitch Game 6.”

Kershaw has a career 1-2 postseason record despite an impressive 2.88 postseason ERA.

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