LOS ANGELES — After two days of waiting, the Los Angeles Dodgers found out who they will play in the National League Championship Series – the St. Louis Cardinals, who beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-1 on Wednesday night in Game 5 to win their NL Division Series.
The Dodgers were scheduled to work out Wednesday evening, then board a plane bound for St. Louis afterward.
If the Pirates had won, the Dodgers would have been at home Friday to open the NLCS. Instead, they are in St. Louis for Friday’s Game 1.
After beating the Atlanta Braves to wrap up their division series in four games Monday, the Dodgers took Tuesday off.
Zack Greinke is expected to start Game 1 of the NLCS. Clayton Kershaw, who pitched on three days’ rest Monday for the first time in his career, was set to go in Game 2.
The team hopes the layoff will benefit rookie pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, who struggled in Game 3 against Atlanta, giving up four runs and six hits over three innings. Ryu has said he isn’t injured, but the left-hander’s performance wasn’t as solid as what he showed during the regular season.
The Dodgers will announce a new 25-man roster for the NLCS.
Andre Ethier was limited to pinch-hitting duty against the Braves, but if his left ankle has healed sufficiently, he could play the outfield.
The Dodgers’ Hanley Ramirez, a former Augusta GreenJacket, played during the NL Division Series in pain, which was obscured by his .500 batting average.
“You can’t think about that,” Ramirez said of the pain. “It’s showtime right now.”
“He is as tough a ballplayer as I’ve ever been around,” catcher A.J. Ellis said of Ramirez.
A nerve problem in his back that slowed him late in the regular season continues to bother him. So does his left hamstring. His left shoulder, which underwent major surgery two years ago, still requires constant care.
On game days, Ramirez arrives at the ballpark five to six hours before the first pitch.
Dodgers trainers treat his back and legs and work to loosen his shoulder.
“Those trainers, they’re keeping me on the field,” said Ramirez. “I think they’re part of my success. I think I wouldn’t be where I am now without them.”
The trainers now stretch Ramirez’s shoulder every day, even during games.
The intent is to extend it as much as possible without dislocating it or tearing anything in it.
If the results are any indication, the treatment has worked marvels.
“After I got here, the medical staff, man, they’ve been unbelievable,” Ramirez said. Ramirez’s presence on the field is as much a credit to his heart as is medicine. He was on the disabled list twice this season. He was sidelined on opening day because he broke his right thumb diving for a ball in the World Baseball Classic, an injury that required surgery. He returned to the disabled list in May with a strained left hamstring.
Both times, Ramirez returned sooner than expected. Both times, he was still hurting but convinced his then-last-place team that it should let him play.
“Some people fight not to play,” General Manager Ned Colletti said. “He fights to play.”
The Dodgers were reminded of that again last month.
After Ramirez’s back flared up, Mattingly played him sparingly with an eye toward the playoffs. In the Dodgers’ final 16 regular-season games, Ramirez started only six.
With the Dodgers holding a substantial lead over the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West, Ramirez said he understood. But the part of Ramirez that wanted to play overpowered his judgment. Soon, he was trying to talk his way back into the lineup.
Now that the postseason is here, Ramirez has no intention of sitting. And this time, manager Don Mattingly is in agreement.
“He’s giving everything he has,” Gonzalez said. “He’s grinding it out.”
This wasn’t what Ramirez’s teammates in Miami used to say about him. Though Ramirez acknowledged that his mentality changed after he was traded to the Dodgers, he said he always played hard. Whatever the case, his reputation was that of a player who coasted on his talent.
His reputation might be changed, but the talent remains.
“There is no way to pitch him,” Ellis said. “He hits all kinds of different pitches, all kinds of speeds, he hits all different types of pitchers.
“He’s locked in and has been locked in the entire season unlike anybody I’ve ever been around. I’m so happy I get to watch him hit and not try to call pitches against him.”