NLCS 2013: Can St. Louis Cardinals' Young Starters Hang With Dodgers?

By Randy Holt
Michael Wacha
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of whether or not you adhere to the belief that the St. Louis Cardinals possess the best fans in baseball, there’s no arguing that they represent one of the better organizations in all of sports. They’re a constantly successful team, with as deep a farm system as there is in baseball.

We’ve seen them call up players this season that they’ve plugged in and have found immediate success. Spot starters and relievers have turned into assets in the rotation, as well as some young guys. Two players that fit the bill here are, of course, Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha.

Kelly took the loss in his only start of the postseason to this point, but he was still solid nonetheless. He pitched into the sixth against Pittsburgh, surrendering only two earned runs in the start. Down the regular season’s final stretch, he represented the most consistent Cardinal starter outside of Adam Wainwright.

Then there’s this Wacha business. With the Cardinals facing elimination in Game 4 of the National League Division Series, Wacha came out and tossed an absolute gem. He threw seven and a third innings for the Cards, surrendering only one run that came on a Pedro Alvarez solo home run. It was also the only hit he allowed, and it didn’t come until the eighth.

There’s little doubt that Kelly and Wacha each possess the ability to rise to the occasion. They’ve displayed that to this point in the playoffs with a very good start from Kelly, and a downright excellent start from Wacha. However, the Los Angeles Dodgers represent a new animal.

The Dodgers boast an absolutely absurd payroll, and one of the deepest lineups in the league. Not only that, but the young guns for the Cards will have to match up against the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Those are Cy Young contenders. Not exactly Francisco Liriano and Charlie Morton.

It’ll be interesting to see how the young starters handle this type of pressure for the Cards. Kelly will get the ball in Game 1, before turning it over to Wacha in Game 2. They’ll be required to set the tone against Greinke and Kershaw, respectively. Can they hack it? We’ll find out this weekend.

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