ST. LOUIS — For four straight starts, Michael Wacha has been all but untouchable and appeared oblivious to the stakes.
The Cardinals need one more 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 frontrunner 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 tonight, the precocious right-hander and the lefty who would be at the top of anyone's list to work a must-win.
This time, the Cardinals lead the Dodgers 3-2 in the NLCS.
"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 extended the series by muscling up on offense, with Adrian Gonzalez hitting two of their four homers in a 6-4 victory Wednesday. Manager Don Mattingly was hopeful that Hanley Ramirez (ribs) and Andre Ethier (ankle) would benefit from the travel day and be in the lineup.
Wacha is 2-0 with a 0.64 ERA in the postseason, allowing just six hits in 14 innings with 17 strikeouts. Counting his last start of the regular season, when he was one out shy of a no-hitter, make it 3-0 with an 0.42 ERA.
Slim leads have been of no concern, with the Cardinals totaling five runs in those games.
"Just this whole postseason ride has been amazing," Wacha said. "Hopefully we can just keep it going."
Kershaw is the majors' ERA leader three years running and worked the division series clincher against Atlanta on three days' rest. He gave up just two hits in six innings of Game 1.
"I don't really think about the what-ifs," Kershaw said. "I always assumed I was going to pitch Game 6."