Dodgers, Cardinals take different paths to NLCS
By Larry Fine
(Reuters) - Two of Major League Baseball's most storied franchises will meet with a World Series berth at stake when the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers open the best-of-seven National League Championship Series on Friday.
The Cardinals, whose 11 World Series crowns is the most for any National League team, and the Dodgers, winners of six and losers in a dozen other Fall Classics, remodeled their teams in distinctly different ways to get within one last hurdle of contesting MLB's pinnacle prize.
NL Central champions St. Louis, who host the first two games of the series, dramatically changed their cast of characters since winning the World Series in 2006 and 2011, retooling in the Cardinal way - by relying on the next wave of young talent percolating up through their envied minor league system.
The West winners from Los Angeles have gone the opposite route, executing their makeover by opening wide the deep wallets of new owners emboldened by a rich regional television contract and intent on becoming Southern California's glamour team.
St. Louis advanced with a 3-2 series win over the Cinderella wild card Pittsburgh Pirates, while the Dodgers prevailed in four games over the NL East champion Atlanta Braves.
Of the 25 players on the Cardinals' Division Series roster, 18 were homegrown, including a rash of 2013 rookies.
They have played a key role in the St. Louis success story including starting pitchers Michael Wacha, who nearly threw no-hitters in his last two starts, and Shelby Miller, and four bullpen arms led by Trevor Rosenthal, who took over as closer late in September.
On offense, the Cardinals scouting and development system delivered an ideal replacement for first baseman Allen Craig, the team's top clutch hitter. When he went down to injury they inserted stocky rookie Matt Adams, who homered in Wednesday's Game Five clincher against Pittsburgh. Continued...