ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Rosters turn over so quickly these days, the St. Louis Cardinals used only seven players from their 2011 World Series roster in this year's NL championship series.
The NL champions got contributions from 20 rookies this season, many in starring roles on a team that led the NL with 97 wins and then reached the World Series for the second time in three years.
General manager John Mozeliak sees little commonalities, pointing out the '11 team sneaked into the postseason as the second wild card and this year's team that until now has had the home-field advantage.
"The good story line is you've got two teams that have the best records in the game matching up in the World Series," Mozeliak said. "And I think that's nice. A lot of times, that doesn't work out."
Lance Lynn is the only pitcher left from two years ago, joined against the Dodgers by position players Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, Daniel Descalso, David Freese, Matt Holliday and Jon Jay. Cleanup man Allen Craig, sidelined by a foot injury since early September, is expected to join them in the Series and would open as the DH.
The first time Craig would have to play first base is Game 3 Friday in St. Louis, and everyone's optimistic especially given those extra rehab days. Craig's .454 average with runners in scoring position led the majors, and aside from the Cardinals' clinching 9-0 rout of the Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS, the offense has struggled without him.
"He could be the difference," Molina said. "I'm happy to have him back."
When the Cardinals were swept by Boston in the 2004 Series, Michael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal were in middle school.
Wacha was a first-round selection in June 2012 - the Cardinals' compensation pick for losing Albert Pujols to the Angels in free agency - scaled the system quickly and has been phenomenal in the postseason at 3-0 with an 0.43 ERA. He's been to Fenway Park once before, as a sophomore at Texas A&M playing for a college all-star team but didn't play.
"It's unbelievable, just the history," Wacha said. "It's Fenway, it's an amazing ballpark and I just really look forward to getting to play there."
St. Louis worked out Sunday after a day off to savor the NL pennant. They leave for Boston on Tuesday, and just a handful have firsthand experience of the ill-fated 105-win team that got swept by the Red Sox.
"That was one of the toughest experiences in my baseball career," said manager Mike Matheny, who shared catching duties with Molina that year. "You don't forget that."
Matheny said the feeling was similar to the nausea he felt as a rookie manager in the 2012 postseason when the Cardinals took a 3-1 NLCS lead over the Giants and then got walloped three straight times, in his words "getting our lunch handed to us."
"It's a lot like what happened last year as we were standing in the rain watching San Francisco celebrate," Matheny said. "Could we have done anything different? I don't know. But it sure left a sharp bite."
Ace Chris Carpenter was sidelined before that postseason with the first occurrence of a nerve injury that knocked him out all of this season. Carpenter still suits up but in a ceremonial role as a de facto bench coach.
Mozeliak was assistant GM under Walt Jocketty in `04 and remembered everything seeming rushed. The Cardinals beat the Astros in the NLCS, took batting practice at Fenway the next afternoon and then took the first of four lumps.
Off the field, manager Tony La Russa took issue with distant lodging and the "bar food" offered when they arrived at the hotel.
Molina was a 21-year-old rookie in 2004. This year, he's in the conversation for MVP.
"Back then I was just a kid trying to learn," Molina said. "I have a lot more experience."
Carpenter is among four players from '11 that are still with the team but won't be on the roster. Shortstop Rafael Furcal (elbow) also has been out the entire season, Jaime Garcia is rehabbing from midseason shoulder surgery and Jake Westbrook was rarely used the final month coming off elbow and back woes.
Putting Craig on the roster could come at the expense of rookie Kolten Wong, one of the team's top prospects and the likely second baseman of the future.
"We don't have that many extra guys around here that we'd be jostling around what our roster's going to look like," Matheny said.
Matheny announced Adam Wainwright, a 19-game winner who was injured in 2011, and Wacha as the starting pitchers for Games 1 and 2, but didn't go further. Joe Kelly and Lynn are likely to go in Games 3 and 4, given Mozeliak anticipates rookie 15-game winner Shelby Miller will stay in the bullpen for emergency long relief duty.
Miller has pitched just one inning in the postseason and threw to Craig on Sunday.
"I think right now where he's at, I think he'll still be probably used as insurance," Mozeliak said.
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Carlos Beltran, Michael Wacha and the St. Louis Cardinals are going to the World Series - not even Clayton Kershaw could stop them this year.
Beltran and the Cardinals stunned the Dodgers' ace with a four-run third inning, Wacha was again magnificent on the mound and St. Louis advanced to its second World Series in three seasons by roughing up the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-0 in Game 6 of the NL championship series Friday night.
Wacha, a rookie, was selected MVP of the series after throwing 13 2-3 scoreless innings and beating Kershaw twice in the NLCS.
Matt Carpenter sparked St. Louis' big third inning with a one-out double on the 11th pitch of his at-bat. Beltran singled him home and the Cardinals quickly removed all the suspense surrounding a team that squandered a 3-1 series lead in the NLCS last fall against San Francisco.
"I'm so happy right now. We did it as a team," Beltran said. "We fought hard, we worked hard all season long and thank god we're here."
Game 1 of the World Series is Wednesday at the winner of the ALCS between the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers. The Cardinals won their 19th NL pennant and will be trying for their third title since 2006, last winning in 2011.
The glamorous Dodgers, with the second-highest payroll in baseball at $220 million, failed to reach the World Series for the first time since winning it all in 1988.
After losing Game 5 in Los Angeles, the Cardinals turned to Wacha once again. The right-hander was even better in outpitching Kershaw for the second time this series.
It was 52 degrees at game time, a 23-degree drop from the Kershaw-Wacha matchup in Game 2 six days earlier, and Kershaw never warmed up.
The top NL CY Young Award candidate was knocked out of a start for the first time this season without finishing the fifth.
Beltran had three hits and drove in two runs while facing Kershaw and made a spectacular catch in right field, helping him advance to the World Series for the first time in his 16-year career.
Perhaps showing the Cardinals weren't stressed by the possibility of a second straight postseason meltdown, Games 1 and 5 starter Joe Kelly had a post-national anthem staredown against Dodgers reserve outfielder Scott Van Slyke that was broken up by a fed-up home plate umpire Greg Gibson after several minutes.
Kelly blinked first, all in good fun but, when it counted, St. Louis wouldn't budge.
The Cardinals jumped on Kershaw in the third, batting around. After Wacha grounded out, Carpenter doubled in a gritty at-bat. Beltran singled him home for the game's first run. With two outs, Yadier Molina added an RBI single, Shane Robinson drove in two runs with a single in his first career postseason start after replacing slumping Jon Jay - and advanced to second base on Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig's first of two errors in the Cardinals' big innings.
The Cuban defector also struck out twice and was booed heartily. Hanley Ramirez, a last-minute addition to the Dodgers' lineup, went 0 for 3 while playing with a broken rib.
Kershaw needed 48 pitches, the most pitches of his career in one inning, in the third. He took exception one pitch in particular, complaining to plate umpire Greg Gibson after Matt Adams' full-count walk loaded the bases.
The Dodgers bench also was vocal after the call on a pitch that may have been an inch or two low of the strike zone.
The Cardinals knocked Kershaw out in a five-run fifth. Adams doubled in a run to chase Kershaw. Wacha drove in one with a fielder's choice grounder and Carpenter had a sacrifice fly
Wacha has a minuscule 0.43 ERA in three postseason starts, one of the gems in Game 4 of the division series to keep the Cardinals alive. In his last regular season start and the NL Central up for grabs, he no-hit the Nationals for 8 2-3 innings.
"There's not anything you can't say about him," Kelly said of Wacha. "He's just going out there and pitching his butt off right now and as you can see he's just a pretty damn good pitcher."
Beltran was the star of the Cardinals' 3-2, 13-inning Game 1 victory, driving in all three runs plus making a throw to keep it tied in extra innings.
Kershaw was charged with seven runs on 10 hits in four-plus innings. The lefty led the majors in ERA the last three years but has lost five straight starts against St. Louis.
None of his starts this year were shorter than five innings and the most runs he allowed was five, on two occasions. The four-run fourth was his worst since July 24, 2012, at St. Louis, when Kershaw yielded eight runs in 5 2-3 innings.
The Dodgers didn't have much of a chance again Wacha.
Carl Crawford led off the game with an infield hit but was erased on Mark Elllis' double-play ball. A.J. Ellis doubled to start the sixth and didn't advance.
NOTES: Cardinals Hall of Fame SS Ozzie Smith threw the first pitch. ... Beltran has a .331 career postseason average.
CHICAGO (AP) -- T.J. Oshie scored the lone goal in the shootout, Jaroslav Halak stopped all three Chicago shooters in the extra session and the St. Louis Blues defeated the Blackhawks 3-2 on Thursday night.
David Backes scored a power-play goal for St. Louis, while Alexander Steen was credited with an even-strength score in regulation in the Blues' first road game.
Chicago's Marian Hossa scored on a breakaway and set up Brandon Pirri's first NHL goal in regulation. All but one of the Blackhawks' (4-1-2) first seven games have been decided by one goal.
The Blues (5-1-0) started the season with five straight home games, and won the first four before losing 6-2 to San Jose on Tuesday.
Chicago's Corey Crawford made 26 saves and Halak had 27.
Both goalies made a handful of tough stops early before Pirri opened the scoring at 7:42 of the first.
After taking Hossa's perfect pass, Pirri sent a one-timer from the left circle that ticked off the post and into the upper left corner of the net.
Backes' power-play goal at 10:14 of the first tied it at 1. He was parked in front of Crawford and deflected in Jay Bouwmeester's wrist shot from the left point.
The Blues dominated early in the second period. Any momentum was broken when St. Louis' Barret Jackman hit Chicago star Patrick Kane hard from behind and was sent off for boarding at 7:18.
Hossa put Chicago ahead 2-1 with 2:38 left in the second on a breakaway. After the puck slipped past the Blues' defense, both Hossa and Patrick Sharp skated in alone, and Hossa fired a shot past Halak on the stick side.
Steen was credited with a goal 51 seconds later that was inadvertently knocked in by Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith and tied it at 2.
Steen was 30 feet out in the slot, and deflected Bouwmeester's shot from the point. The puck slid to the right side of the crease where Keith was trying to tie up Backes, but Keith swept the puck on goal and past Crawford.
The Blackhawks and Blues are expected to battle at the top of the Central Division, and the rivalry was reflected in increasingly physical, sometimes chippy play on Thursday. Chicago enforcer Brandon Bollig and St. Louis' Roman Polak fought midway through the third.
Crawford made a tough close-in save on Alex Pietrangelo with just over seven minutes left to keep it tied.
Halak made an alert save on Brandon Saad 33 seconds into overtime with Jonathan Toews closing in for a rebound. Jackman's shot hit the post 3:17 into the extra period.
Notes: Pirri, who played in his ninth NHL game, led the AHL with 75 points in 76 games last season while with Rockford. ... Backes played his 500th game and Jackman played his 650th. ... The Blues have played the Blackhawks 288 times, more than any other team. ... St. Louis F Maxim Lapierre, who knocked San Jose D Dan Boyle out a game on Tuesday with a blow to the head, did not dress. Lapierre is scheduled for a hearing with the NHL on Friday. ... The Blackhawks had the NHL's third-best penalty killing last season en route to winning the Stanley Cup, but have allowed six power-play goals in 21 chances so far.
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- It took the Dodgers five games to hit a home run in the NL championship series. Once Adrian Gonzalez powered up for the first one, their dormant offense broke loose.
Gonzalez homered twice and Zack Greinke came through with the clutch performance Los Angeles needed in a 6-4 victory over the Cardinals on Wednesday that trimmed St. Louis' lead to 3-2 in the best-of-seven playoff.
"Guys weren't ready to lose today," said Carl Crawford, who also went deep to help the Dodgers save their season.
Los Angeles held on in the ninth, when St. Louis scored twice off closer Kenley Jansen before he struck out pinch-hitter Adron Chambers with two on to end it.
The series shifts back to St. Louis for Game 6 on Friday night, with ace Clayton Kershaw scheduled to start for Los Angeles against rookie Michael Wacha.
When those two squared off in Game 2, the Cardinals won 1-0 on an unearned run.
"We've kind of become America's team because everyone wants to see a seventh game," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Probably even the fans in St. Louis would like to see a seventh game, so I figure that everybody's for us to win on Friday night."
The Cardinals also led last year's NLCS 3-1 before losing three straight games to the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
"We're looking to do the same thing," Gonzalez said.
Desperate to avoid elimination, the Dodgers brought in some Hollywood star power for pregame introductions. Will Ferrell announced their lineup and lent a comic spin to each player's name, capping it by introducing Greinke as "today's winning pitcher."
Ferrell knew what he was talking about.
Greinke got into a bases-loaded jam with none out in the first but escaped with no damage. From there, he pitched seven strong innings and even delivered an RBI single.
"That was big. I was real nervous out there with that situation," Greinke said.
A.J. Ellis also homered at Dodger Stadium, where it is tougher to clear the fences in the heavy night air.
Helped by playing in 82-degree heat on a sunny afternoon, the Dodgers rediscovered their power stroke just in time to extend the series. They hit .274 in three games at home after batting .184 during the first two games in St. Louis.
"It was just one of those days that we were a little better, got some runs, good feeling," Mattingly said.
The Dodgers regrouped after Greinke squandered an early 2-0 lead just as he did in Game 1, which Los Angeles lost 3-2 in 13 innings on the road.
After neither team homered in the first three games for the first time in NLCS history, the big bats came out. The Cardinals used a two-run homer by Matt Holliday and a solo shot from pinch-hitter Shane Robinson to win 4-2 on Tuesday night.
This time, Gonzalez went 3 for 4 with two solo homers and three runs scored. His two-out shot in the eighth made it 6-2.
"We have a team that can bounce back and do some pretty incredible things out there," he said.
The Cardinals tied it at 2 in the third on Carlos Beltran's RBI triple and Holliday's run-scoring double before Yadier Molina grounded into his second inning-ending double play against Greinke.
"He wasn't as sharp as he was the first time we faced him," Beltran said. "But guys like that, the best guys in the game, they're able to regroup and find a way to help their team win."
Los Angeles answered in the bottom of the third. Mark Ellis singled leading off but was erased when Hanley Ramirez grounded into a double play.
Gonzalez followed with the Dodgers' first homer of the NLCS, slugging the ball an estimated 428 feet into the right-field pavilion for a 3-2 lead.
As he headed toward the dugout, Gonzalez cupped his hands to his ears and wiggled them in a gesture resembling mouse ears. It was an apparent jab at Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, who said Gonzalez had done "some Mickey Mouse stuff" in celebrating a double on Monday night.
"It's just having fun," Gonzalez said. "I'm going to retire them so they're not talked about once again."
Crawford egged Gonzalez on.
"I'm pretty sure it rubbed them the wrong way and they're going to use that as some kind of fuel, so you might as well keep doing it," Crawford said, laughing.
Gonzalez replied: "Hey, if Carl wants them. It's for him, not for anybody else."
After wriggling out of big trouble in the first when Molina bounced into a double play, Greinke allowed two runs and six hits. He struck out four and walked one.
"He made his pitches, we made the plays, got out of it," Gonzalez said. "We were able to get run support for him. All he needed was a few runs."
Jansen gave up RBI singles to Matt Adams and Pete Kozma in the ninth.
A.J. Ellis homered in seventh, sending an 0-2 pitch from Edward Mujica into the left-field pavilion to make it 5-2.
Crawford homered with one out in the fifth, extending the Dodgers' lead to 4-2. He walloped a 3-2 pitch from starter Joe Kelly an estimated 447 feet into the right-field pavilion.
Kelly gave up four runs and seven hits in five innings. He struck out three and walked none.
"I made a few bad pitches on heaters and didn't locate that well, and they turned into home runs," he said. "With guys on base, I was going after them and attacking them with the fastball, but they're good hitters and they put good swings on them and hit them out of the park."
Beltran's triple went over the head of Andre Ethier and to the wall in center, scoring Matt Carpenter, who singled. Holliday followed with a double to deep center, but that was it for St. Louis until the ninth.
"We had a couple of opportunities to do something, and we just couldn't make it happen," manager Mike Matheny said. "These guys have done a tremendous job in those exact same situations all season long. You're going to have games where you just can't make it happen, and we've got to figure out a way to get it done the next time we get a chance."
NOTES: Molina went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. ... Greinke's hit in the second was the third of his postseason career. ... Ramirez, playing with a broken left rib, left after six innings. ... In the three games Ramirez has started with the injury, only two grounders have been hit to him at shortstop. ... The homers by Gonzalez and Crawford were the first given up by Kelly in 24 career postseason innings. He allowed two homers in a game twice during the regular season. ... The Dodgers are trying to become the 12th team to rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. ... Beltran's triple was his first ever in the postseason. ... Former Dodgers star Orel Hershiser tossed out the first pitch on the 25th anniversary of his three-hit shutout against Oakland in Game 2 of the 1988 World Series.