ST. LOUIS -- Any pitch can potentially turn a playoff series one way or the other. The Dodgers can point all the way back to Game 1 for a candidate.
"Three batters in Hanley (Ramirez) gets hit," Dodgers GM Ned Colletti said Friday. "That changes the dynamic some. To play with what he had -- a broken rib -- that's a tough injury to play through at this level."
Ramirez was hit on his left side by St. Louis Cardinals starter Joe Kelly in his first at-bat of Game 1 and suffered a hairline fracture of the eighth rib. The Dodgers' best hitter when he was able to play during an injury-riddled regular season, Ramirez was clearly limited the rest of the series as he tried to play while wearing a flak jacket and receiving daily treatment.
Before the Dodgers left Los Angeles for St. Louis on Thursday afternoon, Manager Don Mattingly told reporters he was optimistic shortstop Ramirez would be ready to play in NLCS Game 6 on Friday night. But Friday afternoon, Mattingly made out a lineup without Ramirez in it, saying Ramirez felt "worse today, coming in" than he felt in Game 5 on Wednesday.
Mattingly even joked about his record of misguided optimism regarding Dodgers' injuries this season.
"I'm still 0-fer on my predictions of medical health going into the next day," he said.
The Dodgers took the field for batting practice and there was no sign of Ramirez, who presumably was trying to get loose inside. About a half-hour before game time, Ramirez made his first appearance on the field, stretching and running in the outfield, then playing catch with medical director Stan Conte at his side.
After a last-minute lineup change, Ramirez did start after all. But he went hitless again, finishing the series 2 for 15 (.133) with a pair of soft singles and five strikeouts after being hit by Kelly.
"I think when you're in it, you're just trying to find a way to win a game," Mattingly said of playing without Ramirez. "You're just trying to win every day and you trust your guys that there's a way to win.
"If we could have got a couple of key hits in the first two games, we're up 2-0 when we leave here. So with Hanley swinging well or not, we're still at that point. There's other guys that can get a hit. They just basically shut us down here in St. Louis. We didn't do much here."
The Dodgers scored at least one victory Friday night -- reserve outfielder Scott Van Slyke outlasted Kelly.
As the national anthem before Game 6 at Busch Stadium ended, Van Slyke and Kelly stood in front of their respective dugouts as the rest of their teams settled in for the game. The two caught each other's eye and a standoff began.
"They were telling me not to leave, to stay out there," Van Slyke said of his teammates. One teammate, reliever Peter Moylan, reached up and placed a helmet on Van Slyke's head. "When I looked over and saw he was the last guy out there, he kind of smiled."
The standoff went on so long that home plate umpire Greg Gibson stepped in front of home plate and gestured to both Van Slyke and Kelly to sit down so the game could start. As Van Slyke scored it, Kelly moved first, ending the spontaneous standoff.
"It was just a fun little thing, trying to get us pumped up," Van Slyke said. "I guess it didn't work."
The Dodgers were reportedly contacted by MLB officials and told that the umpiring crew handling the NLCS was tired of Yasiel Puig's demonstrative behavior regarding calls. Puig stood at home plate with his hands on his hips for several seconds, staring down umpire Ted Barrett after he called him out on a third strike during Game 5 on Wednesday. Team president Stan Kasten had an animated conversation with MLB's executive vice president for baseball operations Joe Torre (who is responsible for supervising the umpires) on the field before Game 6 but would not confirm the discussion was regarding Puig's behavior. Colletti said he was never told anything about the umpires being upset with Puig. ...
The Dodgers are expected to announce some time in the near future that Mattingly will be returning as manager for 2014 and likely beyond. But Colletti and Kasten declined to address the topic following Friday's season-ending loss. ...
The Cardinals' RBI leader during the regular season, Allen Craig, has not been on their roster for the NLDS against Pittsburgh or the NLCS against the Dodgers because of a foot injury. But the Cardinals are holding out hope Craig might be able to play in the World Series, possibly as a DH in the American League city.
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