Sunday, January 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Cardinals face rested Dodgers in NLCS

ST. LOUIS — Carpets were still drying from a champagne bath and a few players looked bleary-eyed after a workout at Busch Stadium. A day after advancing, there wasn't much time to rest for the Cardinals.

"Obviously, it was a great celebration and a lot of fun," reliever John Axford said Thursday, a day after dispatching the Pirates 6-1. "The clubhouse guys, I don't know if they even went home."

The Dodgers don't have homefield advantage in the NL Championship Series, but they got a few days to savor their postseason success. Zack Greinke was getting ready to go in a possible Game 5 against Atlanta, then went on stand-by. Now he guards against feeling too good in the opener tonight.

"Once we won it, it was just kind of make the best adjustments possible," Greinke said. "I mean, there's not much you can really do."

No telling which side will benefit, the team on a roll or the team coming off a break. Joe Kelly, who flourished as a replacement starter with St. Louis and gets the call for Game 1, was elevated to the fifth starting spot and then waited almost two weeks before actually getting on the mound.

"You could be laid off for eight days and come out and play absolutely the best baseball you've ever done," Kelly said. "You could come out and play the next day and not have a good game. This is all about execution."

Kelly, like other Cardinals youngsters, seemed oblivious to the pressure. "It's Game 1 of the NLCS, but me being me, I'm going to go out there and just pitch like it's another game," he said.

The staff aces won't go until later in the best-of-seven series, with the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw set for Game 2 and the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright ready for Game 3.

Rookie Michael Wacha, who has flirted with a no-hitter his last two starts, goes in Game 2 for St. Louis. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he'd probably announce the rest of his starters on game day.

The series matches a largely homegrown team seeking its second World Series appearance in three years against one that has been among the biggest spenders. The Dodgers spent well over $200 million to put together their team.

Greinke is among a half-dozen Dodgers making $15 million or more and Mattingly said it's like having a pair of aces.

"So it's nice to start a series with a guy of his caliber," Mattingly said. "In this environment, it's nice to have those two right on top."

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