Looking ahead to Game 6 of the NLCS between the Cardinals and Giants

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The Cardinals were hoping to clinch their second consecutive National League pennant last night, but vintage Barry Zito showed up to ruin the party. While they still hold a 3-2 lead in the NLCS, the series will now shift to San Francisco for Game 6 on Sunday night. Let’s take a quick look at the pitching matchup, which is a rematch from the Giants’ 7-1 win in Game 2 on Monday.

Chris Carpenter will make the start for the Cardinals after giving up five runs (two earned) over just four innings back in Game 2. The 37-year-old right-hander served up a leadoff home run to Angel Pagan in the bottom of the first inning and committed a throwing error during a four-run fourth inning. He struck out just one batter while allowing six hits and two walks. Carpenter has a 3.04 ERA and 15/7 K/BB ratio in 26 2/3 innings over five total starts (including two postseason starts) since returning from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome in September. However, he has yet to throw more than six innings. This will be the fifth time in his career that he will start a game with the chance to clinch a playoff series. He is 3-1 with a 1.93 ERA and 17/5 K/BB ratio in 28 innings in his previous four assignments.

Ryan Vogelsong will get the call for the Giants after tossing seven innings of one-run ball in Game 2. He allowed just four hits on the night while the only run he surrendered was on an RBI double by opposing pitcher Chris Carpenter. Vogelsong has been on a pretty nice roll recently, posting a microscopic 0.93 ERA in his last five starts dating back to the regular season. He had a 2.86 ERA in 15 starts at home this season, which was 10th-best among qualified National League starters. By the way, the National League starter with the best ERA at home this season? Matt Cain (2.03), who lines up to pitch a potential Game 7 against Kyle Lohse on Monday.

Clayton Kershaw might return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week

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Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.

Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.

Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.