NLCS Preview: Cardinals at Dodgers, Game 3
Start time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Series: Cardinals lead 2-0
Starting pitchers: Adam Wainwright (2-0, 1.13 ERA) vs. Hyun-jin Ryu (0-0, 12.00 ERA)
Down 2-games-to-0 and about to face Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright in Game 3, the Dodgers are up against it in this series. They could draw some encouragement, however, from a past failure. In 1985, the only other time these two teams met in a National League Championship Series, the Dodgers won the first two games at home and had Bob Welch, who had gone 14-4 with a 2.31 ERA that season, starting Game 3. L.A., though, didn't win another game after the series moved to St. Louis, ultimately losing in six. This time, the Dodgers hope the scrip is flipped with the series heading back to L.A.
Los Angeles' confidence is likely guarded at best given that its Game 3 starter, South Korean rookie Hyun-jin Ryu, was lit up in his only Division Series start, giving up four runs in a mere three innings to the Braves. It's important to note, however, that until his final start of the regular season, from which he was removed early to ease his workload heading into the postseason, Ryu had completed at least five innings in each of his first 29 major league starts and hadn't allowed as many as five runs since July 10. Over his final 11 regular season starts, Ryu posted a 2.57 ERA, walked just eight men (1.0 BB/9) and allowed only five home runs. Given that, it's safe to write off his Division Series disaster as a fluke.
Included in that late-season run was Ryu's only start against the Cardinals. In that game, on Aug. 8, he held St. Louis to one unearned run on five hits, all singles, over seven innings, walked no one, struck out seven and got 17 of his 21 outs via groundball or strikeout. David Freese and Matt Holliday had four of the Cards' five hits in that game.
It's also important to note that the Dodgers are facing Adam Wainwright outside of Busch Stadium. With the exception of one fluky disaster start against the Reds, Wainwright has been dominant at home this year, but he has been human on the road, posting a 3.36 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 17 starts. Those are still very strong rates, and the Cardinals are 12-5 in Wainwright's road starts this season, but they're not nearly as imposing as his home numbers, which include five of his six complete games and both of his shutouts this season. What's more, this will be Wainwright's first road start since Sept. 18, his longest gap between road starts since August of last year.
Wainwright's only start against the Dodgers this season came on Aug. 5. He gave up three runs in seven innings and took a hard-luck 3-2 loss. He last pitched at Dodger Stadium in September 2012, turning in a quality start. That was his only outing in Chavez Ravine since 2010.
Ultimately, L.A.'s chances in this game may hinge on the health of its lineup. Hanley Ramirez was hit in the ribs by a 95 mph Joe Kelly fastball in Game 1 and did not play in Game 2. X-rays of Ramirez's ribs were negative on Saturday, but he had a CT scan in Los Angeles on Sunday because he reportedly remained convinced that something was broken. The Dodgers had yet to release the results of that scan as of this writing. Ramirez, who has hit .444/.583/.944 in this, his first postseason, has vowed to be in the lineup for Game 3, but he also admitted that he couldn't finish his swing on Saturday, so there's doubt about his ability to contribute even if he does play.
Meanwhile, the Dodger with the best career numbers against Wainwright is Andre Ethier, who has hit .303/.361/.667 against the Cardinals ace with three home runs in 36 plate appearances. Ethier, however, also did not play in Game 2 after making his first start since Sept. 13 in Game 1. Ethier has been batting a left ankle sprain and is having difficulty with lateral movement and turns. The Dodgers decided he was unfit to play in Game 2, and given that he has been battling this injury for more than a month now, the extra day off is unlikely to have altered his outlook for Game 3. Given those injuries, Yasiel Puig's NLCS slump (0-for-10, 6 Ks, no walks) couldn't have come at a worse time. The Dodgers didn't hit much in the first two games -- they've hit .184/.262/.237 thus far in the series and scored just two runs -- but Puig is the only player to start both of those games and not get a hit, never mind not reach base by any means. He has looked awful at the plate, and as a player who wears his emotions on his sleeve, it seems clear that his slump and its role in his team being down 0-2 in the series are weighing on the 22-year-old rookie.