Time for Dodgers to face their demon -- the St. Louis Cardinals

Time for Dodgers to face their demon -- the St. Louis Cardinals
Dodgers pinch-runner Yasiel Puig walks off the field as the Cardinals celebrate their victory in Game 4 of the National League division serieslast year. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Ahhhh! It's in the dark. No, it's under the bed. Voices in the head. No, wait, it's everywhere.

Or it could just be the mother-in-law. Whatever your nightmare, they say it’s best to face it head-on. And so here go the Dodgers, right into the deepest depths of their very own netherworld – St. Louis.

That’s right, beneath the Gateway Arch lie buried the remnants of Dodgers’ championship hopes from the past two postseasons. Clayton Kershaw has several seventh innings there. Dig deeper, and you can probably find Odalis Perez and maybe even Tom Niedenfuer.

They call themselves Cardinals, but come on, they wear red. Might as well have horns instead of a helmet and carry a pitchfork instead of a bat. Makes you wonder if that 2009 L.A. playoff sweep ever happened.

Certainly, the past two years the Cardinals plain schooled the Dodgers in the postseason, beat a team that appeared to be clearly more talented. It absolutely did not matter. Last year, the Cardinals took the Dodgers in four games in the division series and then lost the pennant to the Giants, who went on to win the World Series and only make it worse. If the Cardinals are the devil, then obviously the evil Giants are Lucifer.

Tonight the teams meet for the first time since the Cardinals eliminated the Dodgers in Game 4 of last year’s division series. The two teams with the best records in the National League. Two teams who could well be headed to another postseason showdown, or so the Cardinals probably hope.

Hey, the Bulls had to get past the Pistons. Joe Montana had to push the 49ers past the Cowboys. The Lakers had the Celtics. And now the Dodgers have their very own Gashouse Gang antagonists.

Let's face it, if the Dodgers are ever going to claim their first World Series title since 1988, they're going to have to learn how to beat the Cardinals. And not just in the regular season – they actually edged St. Louis 4-3 last season – but in the playoffs.


Still, these next 10 days could offer a very nice proclamation that the Dodgers are tired of this second-tier status in the NL, when they meet the Cardinals seven times.

The Dodgers need to find their Big Blue mojo against these guys, and this weekend could deliver a very nice start. They'll have to do it without starting either Zack Greinke or Kershaw. Go naked into the night if they must, just learn to conquer your fears.