(SportsNetwork.com) - If the St. Louis Cardinals are going to advance to their second World Series in three seasons they are going to have to earn it.
On Friday, the Cardinals will try to finish off the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium.
That may be easier said than done, though, as the Cardinals will be going up against perhaps the best pitcher in baseball in left-hander Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw is likely headed toward another NL Cy Young Award after a remarkable regular season that saw him go 16-9 and lead the major leagues with a minuscule 1.83 ERA and an NL-best 232 strikeouts.
The Cardinals, though, have given him fits, as he lost twice to them in the regular season and, despite a terrific effort, was defeated by them on Saturday in Game 2 of this series. Kershaw gave up an unearned run and two hits over six innings of that one to fall to 1-1 with a 0.47 ERA in three starts this postseason.
"All we have to do is score for him," said Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
St. Louis, meanwhile, will be trying to secure an amazing 19th NL pennant behind rookie Michael Wacha, who has been spectacular this postseason, winning both of his starts, while pitching to a 0.64 ERA. Wacha was able to outduel Kershaw in Game 2 by scattering five hits over 6 2/3 scoreless innings.
Counting his last start of the regular season, when he came within an out of a no-hitter, he is 3-0 with an 0.42 ERA.
"I just expect Michael to go out and do what he's done, just like the rest of our guys," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "Stick with what you've done all along the way, and don't ignore and don't deny the excitement."
Los Angeles staved off elimination on Wednesday, as Gonzalez hit two of the Dodgers' four home runs in a 6-4 win at Dodger Stadium. Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis also delivered solo blasts for the NL West champs, who hadn't homered at all in dropping three of the first four matchups to St. Louis.
"I think if you look at it now, we've kind of become America's team because everyone wants to see a seventh game," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Probably even fans in St. Louis want to see a seventh game, so I figure that everyone's for us to win on Friday night."
Zack Greinke (1-0) worked out of a bases-loaded no-out jam in the first, then limited the Cardinals to two runs on six hits over seven innings. He also helped his cause with an RBI single.
"When Zack got out of that inning with no runs, it was just a huge momentum swing in the game," Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis said. "Sometimes a game is won or lost in that first inning. I think that first inning had a huge impact on today's game."
Matt Holliday went 3-for-4 with an RBI and Matt Adams and Matt Carpenter each collected two hits in the loss for the Cardinals, who, of course, have lost an NLCS both times they have held a 3-1 lead, including last year to the San Francisco Giants.
Unlike last year though, the Cards will play the final two games in St. Louis, where they are 25-6 since Aug. 11.
"We're not going to San Francisco, we're going home, so I think that's a big plus," Cards third baseman David Freese said.
If necessary, Game 7 will be played on Saturday at Busch Stadium.