ST. LOUIS -- After starting the season with admittedly very few opportunities to use righthander Joe Kelly, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has presented him with one of the best near season's end.
Kelly will start Game 1 of the National League championship series on Friday night at Busch Stadium -- an assignment Matheny repeatedly said the righty, once sequestered in a little-used long relief role, has earned.
"When he did get the opportunities, he made the most of them and continued to come in here regardless of what his role," Matheny said. "These sort of things pay off in the long run, especially on a winning team. ... Joe just continued to push and work and show us that he's ready for an opportunity like this one."
The Cardinals did not finalize their 25-man roster for the best-of-seven series, but officials said they do not expect to make any changes from the one they used in the National League division series. Only the rotation has shifted. Kelly did not start until Game 3 of the NLDS, but his solid performance against Pittsburgh -- two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings -- pushes him ahead of Lance Lynn in this series.
After Kelly, rookie Michael Wacha and ace Adam Wainwright will start Games 2 and 3, respectively, on normal rest. Matheny declined to announce his starter for Game 4, as the team wants to remain flexible.
Lynn and Shelby Miller are the available candidates.
Like Kelly at the beginning of the season, it's Miller who has been recast in a little-used long relief role so far this postseason. Fatigue may be a concern for the club and its rookie righty, but Miller won 15 games and has said he's eager to find a role this October.
"Sometimes things aren't comfortable, and that's the nature of this business," Matheny said. "They learn to adjust and adapt. They learn to compete regardless. If they do have that idea that it's about we and not me, it's something that they convince themselves that they can function and execute."
CRAIG OUT FOR NLCS
Cardinals cleanup hitter Allen Craig traveled to North Carolina on Thursday to meet with a specialist about the ligament damage in his left foot that has kept him off the field for nearly six weeks. General manager John Mozeliak said Craig will not be on the active roster for the NLCS.
The Cardinals sent Craig to see Dr. Robert Anderson, who earlier this season operated on prospect Oscar Taveras' ankle, to set a therapy program and evaluate his potential readiness should the Cardinals advance to the World Series.
"He's going to get a second opinion and pending that outcome we're going to decide what the next therapeutic step is," Mozeliak said. "We want to get an idea on what that therapy looks like if we're going to get him ready for the next series."
Craig was diagnosed at the start of the postseason with a Lisfranc injury, which involves damage to the foot and its ligament that puts the foot's integrity in jeopardy. Mozeliak repeated Thursday that it's not an injury to "be aggressive with." Craig has been doing limited baseball activities to try and remain sharp, but his return remains a two-step process. Even if he was healthy in the middle of this NLCS, he would not have the time to be game-ready.
"I feel bad for Craig," Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire said. "Three RBIs from 100 and this freak accident. He's one of the purest RBI guys I've ever worked with. Stud. Stud for years to come."
During a workout the Dodgers had in Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon, former Cardinals outfielder Skip Schumaker told teammates they should just get on a plane and fly to St. Louis. If Pittsburgh won the Dodgers would have hosted instead of traveled, but Schumaker had his reason. They didn't need to wait for the outcome of Wednesday's Game 5 of the National League division series.
The Cardinals had Wainwright going.
"We should be flying out now," Schumaker repeated after LA's workout at Busch Stadium on Thursday night. "I'm not going to bet against Adam Wainwright in a Game 5. Hopefully it's different when we face him. But I had a pretty good sense that he was going to close that out for them."
Wainwright became the 27th pitcher in baseball history to have a complete game in an elimination game. His complete game was the first in a home playoff game at Busch Stadium III, and the first by a Cardinal in St. Louis since Danny Cox in 1987. Wainwright joined Curt Schilling (2001) and Chris Carpenter (2011) as the only NL pitchers to throw a complete-game, one-run win in Game 5 of the NLDS.
CARPENTER'S D WAS KEY
Not to be lost in the complete game by Wainwright and home runs by David Freese and Adam Wainwright, was a defensive play that may have saved the Cardinals in Game 5 of NLDS. In the seventh inning, Pedro Alvarez skipped a groundball down the first-base line that hit the base and bounded over Adams. Sliding to the rescue behind him was second baseman Matt Carpenter.
Carpenter corralled the ball and made late throw home to try and prevent the Pirates' run from scoring. Had he not been there, Alvarez's base hit would have gone down the line. Two runs would have scored and Alvarez would have been in scoring position as the tying run.
"That's hustle and desire," Matheny said. "That is a game-changing play. If he's not back there, you're looking at two runs. That was a great play."
Carpenter, who struggled at the plate during the NLDS, turned two line drives into double plays during Game 5. In the second inning, infield coach Jose Oquendo shifted him over right to where Alvarez then lined out. In the eighth, Carpenter reacted to where Wainwright pitched Starling Marte to move over and cutoff the liner before throwing to first for the double play.
Hall of Famer Bob Gibson will join Wainwright and Jason Motte on Friday night to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. The three pitchers threw the final pitch of a World Series championship: Gibson in 1967, Wainwright in 2006 and Motte in 2011. ... Tony La Russa and Red Schoendienst will throw out the ceremonial first pitches for Saturday's Game 2.
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