LOS ANGELES — Hanley Ramirez was far from 100 percent, nursing a fractured rib sustained in Game 1 of the NLCS when he took a Joe Kelly 95-mile-per-hour fastball to his left side.
That didn’t stop his family in town from the Dominican Republic to agree with the rest of Dodgers faithful: the shortstop needed to be in the lineup with Los Angeles trailing, two games to none
Ramirez was back, hitting third, and while his two hits weren’t crushed, they were good enough to help spark an offense that produced a critical 3-0 win. Ramirez was 2 for 4 with a bloop single to score Carl Crawford for an insurance run in the eighth inning, playing through constant pain.
“Even my family from the Dominican told me I have to be in the lineup,” he said. “People keep telling me that, on Twitter, you know? What can I do? I have to be in the lineup. I told myself I can’t let anybody down now.”
A CT scan revealed a hairline fracture of a rib, an injury that caused Ramirez to miss Game 2. After that game, he promised to be in the Game 3 lineup. After a pregame workout featuring hitting and taking ground balls, he declared himself fit enough to play.
“Watching him take BP and throw, he seemed pretty good,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “I know he was taking it easy, so it sounded like it went pretty good for him. Obviously, he threw a couple of hits out there and it’s good to have him in there.”
Ramirez is hitting .454 (10 for 22) in the postseason with one homer, seven RBIs, and a .571 on-base percentage. In one sequence in the field, Ramirez backed away from the charging Yadier Molina at second base to avoid a collision on a double-play attempt.
“It’s just a different feeling [playing in the] postseason,” Ramirez said. “Every pitch counts. Every out. Every inning. When you’re out there, you want to be part of it. It’s a different feeling.”
Meanwhile, center fielder Andre Ethier, whose gimpy left ankle limited him to a pinch-hitting appearance in Game 2, was also in the lineup, hitting fifth.“Once we got out there going, jogging out there is a discomfort, but it seems to go away when you lock in on that pitch [at the plate],” he said. “You’re going after something, not trying to focus on anything.”
Having Ramirez and Ethier back in the lineup allowed Mattingly to move Yasiel Puig to the sixth spot, two days after the rookie struck out four times as a cleanup hitter in Game 2. Although Ethier was 0 for 4 and stranded three runners, Puig was 2 for 3, including a big RBI triple in the fourth.
The Cardinals are offering Puig hard fastballs down and away and his impatience is apparent.
“I think we all know with Yasiel is it’s always from trying too hard,” Mattingly said. “It’s never from not trying. So for the most part, when he’s trying to do so much up there and do everything he can for us to win, the one thing, again, I go back to is talk about how proud I was of him last series and the decisions he has made. The at-bats, without the result, you see him deeper in counts and laying off pitches and it’s like it goes the other way. It’s like he can’t do it enough.
“He’s still 22. He doesn’t have a half a year in the big leagues yet. This is still a young, talented kid that’s still growing. I think that’s one thing we always have to kind of keep an eye on.”
Lance Lynn, yet another one of the Cardinals’ homegrown pitchers, will get the nod in Game 4 on Tuesday. The 26-year-old righthander went 15-10 with a 3.97 ERA in 33 starts for the Cardinals, yet does not appear daunted by the task.
Despite being in just his second full season, Lynn has pitched in 18 postseason games and was a key addition to the 2011 Cardinals’ World Series-winning team. He already has a win in the NLCS, too, pitching the final two innings of Game 1, a 3-2 victory in 13 innings.
“[Having postseason experience] doesn’t hurt, that’s for sure. But when it’s all said and done, I’ve never been in Dodger Stadium pitching a Game 4 of the NLCS,” he said. “So you can take whatever you want from any situation you’ve ever been in, but every situation is going to be new and it’s going to have different things to overcome. I’m looking forward to try to overcome that [Tuesday].”
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.