Division Series - Pittsburgh Pirates v St Louis Cardinals - Game Five

Adam Wainwright will need to come up huge again in NLCS

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While they do have the advantage of staying home in St. Louis, the Cardinals won’t have long to rest following their NLDS victory on Wednesday night.

The Dodgers are coming to town on Friday, and they’re bringing their aces.

The Cardinals’ rotation is in flux after their five-game series, but the Dodgers face no such questions with Zack Greinke getting the ball on Friday and Clayton Kershaw following in Saturday’s Game 2. The Cardinals would seem to be at a clear disadvantage both days. The Game 1 starter is still unannounced, with NLDS Game 3 starter Joe Kelly, Game 2 starter Lance Lynn and rookie Shelby Miller all capable of pitching. Kelly would seem to be the favorite to get the nod.

After that, it’ll almost certainly be Michael Wacha in Game 2. With the way he’s throwing, he looks like the fourth-best starter in the series. Unfortunately, he’ll be going against the best in Kershaw.

The Cardinals will be in better shape when the series heads to L.A. Game 3 will pit Wainwright versus an iffy Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Dodgers have denied that there’s anything physically wrong with Ryu, but reports have suggested otherwise.

Game 4 figures to feature one of the guys who wasn’t picked from the Kelly-Lynn-Miller trio and Ricky Nolasco, who was passed over in Game 4 of the NLDS for Kershaw on short rest. That’s probably another advantage to the Cardinals, given Nolasco’s poor showing at the end of the season and lack of recent activity. Then it’s back to Greinke and Kershaw for the Dodgers, with Wainwright waiting in Game 7.

While seven-game series take unexpected twists and turns all of the time, it is pretty hard to see the Cardinals beating the Dodgers without winning both of Wainwright’s starts. Fortunately, Wainwright seems more than up to the task. He just finished off the Pirates with a 107-pitch complete game to improve to 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and a ridiculous 57/7 K/BB ratio in 48 2/3 innings in the postseason. Including the two against the Pirates, the Cardinals have won each of his last seven starts dating back to the regular season, with Wainwright allowing a total of nine runs in that span.

Mets’ Neil Walker expected to undergo season-ending back surgery

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: Neil Walker #20 of the New York Mets sits in the dugout before the game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Jared Diamond of The Wall Street Journal reports that Mets second baseman Neil Walker is expected to undergo season-ending surgery to fix a herniated disk in his lower back. Walker has avoided the disabled list but hasn’t played since last Saturday and has only two starts since August 22.

If Walker does indeed go under the knife, he’ll end his first season with the Mets with a terrific .282/.347/.476 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 55 RBI in 458 plate appearances. While the Mets couldn’t have foreseen Daniel Murphy having such a terrific season, Walker was more than adequate in Murphy’s shoes at second base.

Kelly Johnson and Wilmer Flores have handled second base in Walker’s absence and will continue to do so through the remainder of the season.

Video: Stephen Cardullo celebrates his birthday by hitting a grand slam

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 31:  Stephen Cardullo #65 of the Colorado Rockies watches his first career Major League home run during the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Coors Field on August 31, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
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Rockies 1B/OF Stephen Cardullo celebrated his 29th birthday on Wednesday, so the rookie decided to celebrate by homering in both games of his team’s doubleheader at home against the Dodgers.

In the first game, Cardullo pinch-hit for Chris Rusin in the seventh inning and drilled a solo home run off of Casey Fien. In the second game, Cardullo smacked a grand slam to left-center field off of Bud Norris in the first inning.

Cardullo made his major league debut this past Friday. He was hitless in his first five at-bats before singling as a pinch-hitter on Monday.