With the St. Louis Cardinals’ pitching on a roll and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ offense ailing, the National League Championship Series is off to a one-sided start.
The teams move to Dodger Stadium for Game 3 at 8 p.m. Monday with the Cardinals holding a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. The Dodgers’ hopes of erasing the deficit could hinge on the availability of injured shortstop Hanley Ramirez and outfielder Andre Ethier.
“If I know Hanley and Andre, they’ll both be in there (Monday),” said Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright, who will make his series debut on Tuesday. “They’re both great competitors. (Ramirez) looks the best I’ve seen him in a long time. His swing looks great. His approach is awesome. As everyone knows he’s got power to all fields, so he’s a very dangerous hitter and a very tough bat added to that lineup.”
Ramirez was struck in the ribcage by a pitch in Game 1, and he did not play in Game 2. The former NL batting champion underwent a CT scan on Sunday, but he remained confident he would start Game 3. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said the team was awaiting the results of the scan.
On Friday, Ethier made his first start since Sept. 13, returning from a sore left ankle. However, after going 1-for-5 in the Dodgers’ 13-inning loss, Ethier did not start Saturday. He struck out as a ninth-inning pinch hitter.
After St. Louis won the lengthy opener, the Cardinals held on for a 1-0 win in Game 2 — and their top starter is lined up to pitch Game 3. Wainwright, who went 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA in the NL Division Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates, will start Monday against Dodgers rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu.
Wainwright, 32, finished 19-9 with a 2.94 ERA in the regular season, leading the league in wins and complete games (five).
In his lone start against the Dodgers this year, Wainwright allowed three runs in seven innings during a 3-2 loss on Aug. 5 at Busch Stadium.
Ryu, 26, pitched effectively after arriving from Japan, going 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA. However, in his lone postseason start, he gave up four runs in three innings in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves.
Ryu was sharp in his only appearance against the Cardinals, pitching seven shutout innings on Aug. 8 in a 5-1 win in St. Louis.
“I believe it’s irrelevant to say that you have confidence against a certain team, as a pitcher, because we’re always out there being confident no matter who we face,” Ryu said. “At the same time, St. Louis is probably a different team than we were in the regular season. So I still have to take it very carefully and consider them a brand-new team that I’m going to be facing.”
Even though the Cardinals swept their first two home games in the series, their offense had little to do with the team’s success. St. Louis is batting .134 (9-for-67), even worse than the Dodgers’ .184 mark (14-for-76). Neither team has a home run.
“I think both of these teams have the opportunity and the potential and have, during the season, been able to throw up some big games offensively,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “We’ve been that kind of team. and so have they. We realize it can happen for and against, but we don’t really anticipate one way or the other. We anticipate us going out and playing the game the right way.
“You never know when you’re going to have one of those big innings that turn into a big game. You’re hopeful for them and you grind out at-bats trying to create them.”
Mattingly said, “Well, we’re going to approach it the same way we have the last couple of days. It doesn’t get any easier for us with Wainwright, but basically trying to put a plan together. … In general, we put a plan together for him, try to stick with it, and get ourselves good pitches to hit. Try to square him up and keep it the same thing we’ve been doing all year long. So nothing really changes other than we want to have better results these next couple of days.”
The Cardinals announced Sunday that right-hander Lance Lynn would get the start in Game 4 against Dodgers right-hander Ricky Nolasco. Lynn was the winning pitcher in relief in the NLCS opener. Nolasco will be making his postseason debut, as the Dodgers skipped his turn in the NLDS to have Clayton Kershaw start on three days’ rest.