NLCS Game 4: Up To You, Ricky Nolasco

dodger_stadium_2013_150x150Why is tonight’s game thread so early? Because I am unexpectedly off to watch baseball at the MLB Fan Cave. Life is weird sometimes.

As expected, Ricky Nolasco is starting tonight’s game. Obviously, this looks better the longer the series goes; starting Zack Greinke in Game 5, Clayton Kershaw in Game 6, and Hyun-jin Ryu in Game 7 (none on short rest), feels better than pushing everyone up a day and having to scramble later on. (Both Greinke and Kershaw offered to go on short rest, reports Pedro Moura.)

But of course, it does leave the Dodgers with an over-rested, inconsistent Nolasco tonight, and how he responds to that is going to be the deciding factor of whether this was the right call or not. I’m still torn on it, honestly; I think there’s definitely arguments to be made for both sides, and so I don’t really have a problem with this being the direction they take. (As I’ve said in the past, had they lost last night to fall to three games behind, I definitely think Greinke goes tonight.)

Cardinals
Dodgers
2B
Carpenter
LF
Crawford
RF
Beltran
2B
M.Ellis
LF
Holliday
SS
Ramirez
1B
Adams
1B
Gonzalez
C
Molina
CF
Ethier
CF
Jay
RF
Puig
3B
Freese
3B
Uribe
SS
Descalso
C
A.Ellis
P
Lynn
P
Nolasco

Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier each are back in the lineup for a second consecutive day, despite both looking limited last night. The lineup remains identical, because Don Mattingly is nothing if not a believer in “if it worked yesterday, it’ll work today.”

Then again, here we are talking about baseball, when nearly as importantly, the Rally Bear has been identified:

In his younger days, Mark Monninger worked as a minor league mascot. For about five years, he played the role of Tremor for the Class-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. But he never made it to the big leagues, and hung up the Quakes’ dinosaur suit to focus on his furniture business.

 This year, however, Monninger turned 50. He decided it was time to give it one last shot. He tried to persuade the Dodgers and Angels to hire him as a mascot. But when they turned him down, he realized he would have to go rogue.

Fri 10/11Sat 10/12Sun 10/13Mon 10/14Tues 10/15Wed 10/16Thurs 10/17
RR. Belisario9105
LJ.P. Howell152026
RK. Jansen51626
RC. Marmol26
RB. Wilson281411
RC. Withrow2544
RE. Volquez

Dodgers tickets

NLCS Game 3: The Return of RoboHanley

dodger_stadium_2013_150x150Hanley Ramirez lives! ….sort of! As we’d worried, he does indeed have a fractured rib, but he will be in the lineup tonight. It’s okay though: it only “causes Ramirez pain when he swings a bat,” reports Ken Gurnick, and it’s not like that’s a big part of his job description. (Gurnick goes on to add that Ramirez has a Kevlar vest and took painkillers to get onto the field. I’d like to get into a whole discussion of the hilariously gray line between what makes taking those okay and something like HGH not, but, another time.)

It’s going to be more than a little interesting to see what Ramirez is able to provide, given his physical condition. But I think we can all agree that even a diminished Ramirez is worth trotting out over Nick Punto, so long as Hanley can at least field his position. Something else to keep an eye on — if they’re smart, the Cardinals are going to bust him inside, early. No, not throw at him — which even Don Mattingly doesn’t believe Joe Kelly was trying to do, despite the insistence of some fans to the contrary — but just inside to get him thinking about. It’s the smart move.

Cardinals
Dodgers
2B
Carpenter
LF
Crawford
RF
Beltran
2B
M.Ellis
LF
Holliday
SS
Ramirez
C
Molina
1B
Gonzalez
3B
Freese
CF
Ethier
1B
Adams
RF
Puig
CF
Jay
3B
Uribe
SS
Kozma
C
A.Ellis
P
Wainwright
P
Ryu

Ramirez isn’t the only one back, because Andre Ethier returns to play center, even though reports on how his ankle is holding up aren’t exactly stellar. His inclusion leads to what is really an odd Dodger lineup, actually.

Even with both Ramirez and Ethier in the lineup, Mark Ellis is still hitting second. That’s not odd, it’s just dumb; Ellis can’t hit righty pitching, and he’s especially had no luck against Wainwright. Ethier actually has (.303/.361/.667 with three homers in 36 plate appearances), so I get putting him fifth, but that pushes Juan Uribe down to seventh.

I know, I know: lineup construction doesn’t usually matter that much. But it’s a general fact that Ellis is not a good enough hitter to be getting more at-bats than anyone other than Carl Crawford, and his presence only allows Mattingly to call for the inevitable sacrifice bunt that will take the bat out of Ramirez’ hands.

But really, it’s not going to matter who is hitting where if the bats can’t wake up and solve Wainwright, and if Hyun-jin Ryu doesn’t manage to solve his first-inning woes. It’s not a stretch to say that this is a must-win game if the Dodgers are going to have a chance to pull this off, so the time for action is now. Let’s get to it.

Fri 10/11Sat 10/12Sun 10/13Mon 10/14Tues 10/15Wed 10/16Thurs 10/17
RR. Belisario9105
LJ.P. Howell152026
RK. Jansen51626
RC. Marmol26
RB. Wilson281411
RC. Withrow2544
RE. Volquez

Dodgers tickets

NLCS Game 2: No Offense, Ever

Through six, this has been brutal. I mean, Clayton Kershaw has been outstanding, but Michael Wacha has been just as good. Still not having fun.

NLCS Game 2: No Hanley, No Ethier

buschstadium

Another game, already? I’m still not over last night. I’m still not over it. I think A.J. Ellis is right on the mark when he said that much of the blame for last night’s Game 1 loss is on the players who simply couldn’t do anything with runners in scoring position, because that’s absolutely true. But a night’s sleep hasn’t changed my mind at all that the Don Mattingly decisions we hated so much yesterday don’t look at all better today, and the fact that he stubbornly insists that he made the right calls isn’t really helping with that.

But that was yesterday, and here’s to hoping that Clayton Kershaw can do enough today to make sure that Mattingly isn’t put into position to make any such close calls. He’ll need to; the only relievers who didn’t get in last night were Carlos Marmol and Edinson Volquez. Chris Withrow and Brian Wilson probably aren’t available tonight; Kenley Jansen, J.P. Howell, and Ronald Belisario all should be able to go for a second day in a row if needed.

Dodgers
Cardinals
LF
Crawford
2B
Carpenter
2B
M.Ellis
RF
Beltran
1B
Gonzalez
LF
Holliday
RF
Puig
C
Molina
3B
Uribe
3B
Freese
CF
Schumaker
1B
Adams
C
A.Ellis
CF
Jay
SS
Punto
SS
Kozma
P
Kershaw
P
Wacha

You’ll notice that Andre Ethier sits in favor of Skip Schumaker today, and that’s not really a big surprise. Having him play 13 innings after a month off wasn’t exactly in the plans, and he was feeling some soreness last night. However, an X-ray was clean, and he should be available to pinch-hit or double-switch in today.

Unfortunately, the news isn’t nearly as good for Hanley Ramirez, who was in the original lineup but was a late scratch after being hit in the ribs by Joe Kelly yesterday. That puts Nick Punto into the starting lineup, and while Punto has indeed been a nice surprise this year, that’s not exactly the kind of lineup you have in what’s a huge game with Michael Wacha on the hill for St. Louis. More concerning, we don’t yet know what his status is for the remainder of the series, thanks to approximately the 17th different injury that has cost him time this year.

There’s at least one bit of good news, though: as we’d hoped for, Steve Lyons will not be back with the team in any capacity in 2014. (Eric Collins is reportedly out too, though that’s not official.) Hard to see that as anything but a huge win. Hopefully, that’s not the only W we’re talking about today.

Fri 10/11Sat 10/12Sun 10/13Mon 10/14Tues 10/15Wed 10/16Thurs 10/17
RR. Belisario9105
LJ.P. Howell152026
RK. Jansen51626
RC. Marmol26
RB. Wilson281411
RC. Withrow2544
RE. Volquez

NLCS Game 1: Extra Innings

Is this even fun? I’m honestly not sure I’m having fun. Yay, Zack Greinke! Yay, Juan Uribe! But also pinch-running and missed opportunities and questionable strike zones and not using your best pitcher in big spots and heart attacks and night sweats… well, it’s headed to the tenth, so time to fire up a second discussion thread.

For the record, the chances of Michael Young having a big hit in Adrian Gonzalez‘ spot and the world imploding are something north of 167%.