While the Los Angeles Dodgers may have the more heralded lineup heading into the 2013 National League Championship Series, it will be the St. Louis Cardinals' bats that get the most out of the Dodgers' elite starters at home.
This is a lofty suggestion, especially considering how St. Louis will have to face the likes of Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in Games 1 and 2.
Yet the Cardinals lineup is perfectly equal to this task and the numbers do not lie.
St. Louis batters have combined to hit a productive .292 against Greinke over 134 plate appearances. Sluggers Matt Holliday and David Freese have each enjoyed quite a bit of success against Greinke in particular, with Holliday owning a lifetime .346 batting average in 26 at bats.
Freese is hitting .333 against the Dodgers' right-hander.
Expect those two to do some damage against Greinke in Game 1.
Another factor is Carlos Beltran, who has a lowly .143 career batting average against Greinke. Nonetheless, Beltran is eager and excited about facing up against both of the Dodgers' aces. He revealed this via Danny Knobler of CBS Sports:
"It's a challenge both ways," said Beltran. "A lot of people are talking about [Greinke and Kershaw], but they've got to face this lineup, too. It's going to be a fun series."
What about Kershaw?
Kershaw is without doubt the ace of Los Angeles' staff. He gets the nod in Game 2, and the Dodgers are hoping to ride his fantastic season into the NLCS.
Yet Kershaw is 4-5 over his career against St. Louis, and the Cardinals are hitting a respectable .245 against him—second in the majors behind only the Chicago White Sox, who hit .341 in limited interleague play.
In addition, Kershaw's career ERA at Busch Stadium is 3.65—not bad but not the dominant numbers Kershaw has enjoyed elsewhere.
Holliday will again be another vital factor against Kershaw in Game 2. His career batting average in 33 at-bats is .303, and he has worked 10 walks against Kershaw. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is also hitting a respectable .273, so it is safe to assume that both could put together some nice at-bats during the course of the game.
Of course, there remain concerns about the Cardinals' offense overall heading into the postseason. This was pointed out by ESPN's Tim Kurkjian who wrote:
The Cardinals scored the most runs in the league—77 more than the second-place Rockies—during the regular season and hit a historically high .330 with runners in scoring position. But in the LDS, they batted .192, scored 15 runs in five games and hit .185 with runners in scoring position.
While those numbers seem problematic, the larger career sample sizes previously mentioned are a much better indication of what could likely happen.
Defeating either Greinke or Kershaw—or both for that matter—will be no easy task. Yet St. Louis will bank on home-field advantage and a lineup equipped with players that can make all the difference.
It will be an interesting two-game set to watch, and the outcome shall dictate in which direction the momentum is flowing.
All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.
Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.
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