The Dodgers don’t have many fond memories of their most recent playoff game with the Cardinals -- Game 6 of last fall’s National League Championship Series, in which St. Louis pounded Clayton Kershaw for sevens runs in a 9-0 win.
But that night wasn’t a complete loss, with Dodger reserve Scott Van Slyke winning a pregame stare-down with Cardinal pitcher Joe Kelly.
Earlier in the series, Van Slyke noticed Kelly would not leave the field after the national anthem until every player on both teams had returned to the dugout. So Van Slyke decided to wait him out, with both players standing rigid on the warning track for 12 minutes.
When plate umpire Greg Gibson threatened to eject them, Kelly took a step to the dugout, allowing Van Slyke to claim the win.
But don’t expect a rematch Friday night -- and only partly because Kelly was traded to the Red Sox in July.
“That’s over,” Van Slyke said in requesting a truce. “I think that was a one-time experience.”
Playing the Cardinals in the postseason, on the other hand, is becoming almost an annual experience for the Dodgers. This year’s series marks the third time in five trips to the playoffs that the Dodgers have met the Cardinals.
“Going to their place, their fans understand the game,” said Van Slyke, who set career highs in every offensive category including games (98), homers (11), average (.297) and on-base percentage (.386) this season. “There’s a little more excitement than, say, you go to Milwaukee. It’s just a baseball city. This is a baseball city too so there’s excitement.”
As for what might happen on the field, Van Slyke said the Dodgers are confident after a strong finish that saw them win their final five regular-season games en route to baseball’s second-best record in September. And in the final month Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez finished 1-2 in the majors in home runs and runs batted in.
“Baseball’s weird,” said Van Slyke. “Some weeks are good, some weeks are bad and some weeks you’re OK. We finished strong. Our pitching’s going to be good. Our bullpen, they’re going to figure it out.
“You’ve got guys like Matt swinging it. Gonzo’s always swinging it. We’ve got guys who are seeing the ball good.”