LOS ANGELES – The beauty of the postseason is that a team’s -- and even a city’s -- mood can change in a matter of hours.
The Los Angeles Dodgers went into Game 3 worried about whether their star shortstop would play again this season and whether their lineup would score again this series versus the St. Louis Cardinals. After a 3-0 win in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium Monday night, they’re feeling a tad more chipper.
Hanley Ramirez played despite a hairline fracture in the ribs and Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched nearly as well as the Dodgers’ two aces but, unlike Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, he actually walked away with a win. He did it by outpitching the Cardinals’ ace, Adam Wainwright. The Dodgers still trail the Cardinals two games to one, but they have Greinke and Kershaw lined up to pitch two of the next three games.
But when? Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he would discuss his choice of Game 4 starter -- Greinke or Ricky Nolasco -- after the game, with rampant speculation he might use Greinke on four days’ rest.
Ryu was among the most consistent starters in the league this year, but he looked shaky and nervous in his first postseason start. Monday saw his return to form.
Ryu bounced back from a rough NL Division Series start against the Atlanta Braves and gave the Dodgers seven shutout innings. He looked far more like the capable No. 3 starter the Dodgers had seen all season than the nervous, mistake-prone pitcher in his last start, when he gave up four runs on six hits in three innings.
Pure dominance from Kershaw and Greinke in the first two games couldn’t net the Dodgers a win, but competence from Ryu did the trick against St. Louis, which has proved susceptible to left-handed pitching. Ryu struck out just four batters, but he allowed only three hits and walked one. The Cardinals didn’t pick up their first hit until David Freese’s sinking liner in the fifth inning that Yasiel Puig couldn’t catch while diving for it.
One other key Dodger started building some positive momentum in the series. Yasiel Puig got his groove back.
Puig, stuck in a deep hitting funk, had one of the more memorable celebrations while driving in the Dodgers’ second run with a fourth-inning triple. In fact, he celebrated twice in his trip around the bases.
Puig flipped his bat and threw up his arms after he made contact, but then started running when he realized the ball might not clear the fence. After it clanged off the right-field wall and started bouncing toward center field, Puig reached third, but not before leaping in the air and slapping his hands together. Before that hit, Puig was 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts for the series.
The Dodgers broke the ice earlier in the inning thanks to some Cardinals miscommunication. Mark Ellis hit a fly ball to right-center field and neither Jon Jay nor Carlos Beltran called for it, so the ball landed for a leadoff double. Ellis advanced on Ramirez’s fly ball to right and scored on Adrian Gonzalez’s double down the right-field line.