October 16, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (23) reacts after hitting a solo home run in the eighth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in game five of the National League Championship Series baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Indians Fan's Guide to the NLCS: Game Six

Depending on how you look at it, the baseball gods either love you or completely hate you, dear reader. Due to circumstances out of the author’s control (namely, classes and MLB’s somewhat haphazard scheduling), there was no Indians Fan’s Guide to the NLCS for Game Five, which ended up as a 6-4 Los Angeles Dodgers victory over the St. Louis Cardinals. So you were either deprived of my #analysis or spared from my nonsensical drivel.

But since the Dodgers won, thanks to another stellar pitching performance from RHP Zack Greinke, the series lives on, and so must the previews, as St. Louis now leads the best-of-seven series 3-2, and the Cardinals will hope to clinch a trip to the World Series on its home turf. Brian has a recap of Game Five, so let’s look at the finer points and press on to Game Six.

Unsung Hero: I’m not sure how I can say a guy who hit two home runs in a game is ‘unsung’ but hey, pitching rules, especially in October. So Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez would be the unsung hero. Both his home runs were solo shots, but they provided some much-needed elbow room, and proved cruical after a late rally by the Cards.

Key Moment: It’s often believed one can only be ‘clutch’ in the late innings or a close game. I would (and have, and do) argue this is not true, clutch lives in our hearts and would point to the top of the first inning in Game Five as a prime example. St. Louis had the bases loaded with no outs, and it looked like the Cardinals were ready to romp to the World Series. These plans came crashing straight into the Greinke pain train, as the Dodgers starter struck out first baseman Matt Adams swinging, and then induced a Yadier Molina double-play ball. It wasn’t a pretty inning, but Greinke put a zero on the board and prevented his team from falling into a hole early.

Who’s Starting Game Six: A rematch of what I called “possibly the best pitching matchup we’ll get all postseason:” the front-runner for the NL Cy Young, the Dodgers ace, LHP Clayton Kershaw against St. Louis’s rookie sensation and no-hitter tease RHP Michael Wacha. Cancel your plans (I never had any to begin with), cause this one should be fun to watch.

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X-factor for Game Six: With such a great pitching matchup, it’s unlikely this game will feature a lot of offense. For St. Louis, the x-factor may be outfielder Matt Holliday, who’s had a better season than I realized at age 33 (22 HR, .389 OBP, .879 OPS), and has had limited success against Kershaw (39 PA, 1 HR, 1 2B, .436 OBP, 8 Ks). If Holiday comes up in a big spot with a runner on first though, be wary – he grounded into a league-leading 31 double-plays.

For LA, its x-factor will be whatever it can get out of hobbled shortstop Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez has been hampered by a hairline rib fracture since Game One of the NLCS, and early in the series the Dodgers were scuffling without its best offensive player. Ramirez is expected to start Game Six, but has often been removed later in games due to the injury. The Dodgers will need him tonight.

Prediction for Game Six: The head is telling me this game comes up in LA’s favor – Kershaw on the mound, Ramirez will start, Gonzalez is hitting and the Dodgers have already had a chance to flail away at Wacha once this series. But my gut isn’t buying it. October small sample sizes are the best small sample sizes, and I expect a repeat of the score and result of Game Two, leading to a 1-0 Cardinals victory in Game Six and a ticket to the World Series.

Tags: Adrian Gonzalez Clayton Kershaw Hanley Ramirez Los Angeles Dodgers Matt Holliday Michael Wacha St Louis Cardinals Zack Greinke

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