NLCS Game 1: Why Greinke vs. Kelly Is Closer Than It Appears

Derek Wolff@dereakawolff56Contributor IIIOctober 11, 2013

Zach Greinke will have the opportunity to win his first postseason game of 2013 in St. Louis
Zach Greinke will have the opportunity to win his first postseason game of 2013 in St. LouisMarc Serota/Getty Images

Zack Greinke is having one of the best seasons of his career.

2013 saw the Dodgers' right-hander post a 15-4 record, making it the third year in a row that he's won 15 games or more. He posted a 2.63 ERA in a season that saw him start 28 games, which is a relatively low number due to an injury caused early in the season when he was involved in a brawl following an altercation with Padres OF Carlos Quentin.

Arguably, the 10-year veteran is having the best season of his career since 2009, which was the year he won the American League Cy Young Award and finished 17th in the MVP race.

Greinke's opponent tonight in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series, Joe Kelly, has none of those accolades. But there is one number that Greinke shares with the Cardinals' 25-year-old right-hander.


Of course, it's the number of postseason starts tonight's starters have made so far in this postseason. Greinke went six inningsgiving up two runs off of four hitsand received a tough-luck loss against the Braves in Atlanta's 4-3 victory in Game 2 of the NLDS one week ago.

Kelly's start was less spectacular; he lasted just five and one-third innings, giving up three runs on five hits. Ultimately, the Cardinals bullpen took the loss in the 5-3 defeat to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Playing for his third team in three seasons, the argument can be made that the 2013 Dodgers are a much better team than the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers, who were defeated by the same St. Louis Cardinals that Greinke will look to beat tonight. 

But the No. 1 also represents the number of postseason victories Greinke has won in his career. In his four postseason starts, the 29-year-old hasn't been very good. 

Greinke's one victory came against the Cardinals in Game 1 of the NLCS in 2011, with Milwaukee hosting. He would go on to lose a pivotal Game 5 in St. Louis with the series tied 2-2 in Game 5, and the Cardinals won the series 4-2 two nights later in Milwaukee.

The postseason stat line as a whole is not a pretty one. Greinke is 1-2 in four postseason starts with an ERA of 5.56 in 22 and two-third innings, giving up 27 hits and 14 earned runs. He has never won a postseason game on the road.

Kelly's postseason numbers are slightly better. Despite appearing in three playoff games, he has yet to record a decision and sits at 0-0 with a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings pitched. He's yielded four earned runs off of 11 hits.

The righty also had a solid season for the Cardinals, posting a 10-5 record with a 2.69 ERA while transitioning from the bullpen to the starting rotation.

One is also the number that the starters recorded against their opposing teams during the regular season. The Dodgers took the season series 4-3, with both teams winning series on the road.

Both Greinke and Kelly won their only starts on back-to-back nights, with Greinke out-dueling Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright 3-2 on August 5. Kelly returned the favor against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw the next night in St. Louis' 5-1 victory.

Over the past 10 seasons, the Cardinals have been the more successful of the two franchises, winning two World Series in three tries and posting a playoff mark of 44-35 through the 2013 NLDS. The Dodgers are 12-15 over the same time frame, but they did win the last playoff meeting between the teams, sweeping the Cardinals in the 2009 NLDS.

Both Greinke and Kelly will look for their first win of the 2013 postseason tonight in St. Louis, with the first pitch slated for 8:37 p.m. ET.