LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers have said they didn’t view it as intentional when St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly hit Hanley Ramirez in the ribs in the first inning of the teams’ playoff series last season.
“When Joe Kelly throws the ball, it goes everywhere all the time,” was how Dodgers manager Don Mattingly put it Tuesday.
But some Dodgers did view it as the pivotal moment of that series, because Ramirez was their hottest hitter and had largely carried them beginning in June all the way through their first-round playoff win over the Atlanta Braves. He played with a cracked rib in five of the six games against the Cardinals, but was ineffective, singling twice in 15 at-bats.
So, they took exception when Carlos Martinez hit Ramirez with a 98-mph fastball July 20 of this season in St. Louis, the last time the teams have seen each other heading into their National League Division Series that starts Friday. The next inning in that game, Clayton Kershaw drilled Matt Holliday in the lower back. He didn’t do much to hide the fact that it was a retaliatory measure.
“It's tough when you see Hanley get hit like that so many times. It's one thing to miss in, but when you're missing up and in at a guy's face like that, that's really scary,” Kershaw told reporters that night. “When you throw that hard, you need to have a better idea where the ball's going.”
Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal hit Ramirez again in the ninth inning of that game, raising the question of whether the teams have some unfinished business heading into Friday’s opener of the series, with aces Kershaw and Adam Wainwright on the mound. Kelly was traded in July to the Boston Red Sox in the deal that brought John Lackey to St. Louis. According to Mattingly and at least one player, the bad blood of that series is a non-factor in this one.
“We’ve had all year long if we wanted revenge or anything like that,” Mattingly said. “We’re trying to win games. It’s really not a concern if somebody gets hit. You can’t go to the plate worrying about getting hit. You can’t go to the mound thinking, ‘I’ve got to hit somebody and establish.’ We all come to play.”
Said Dodgers outfielder Scott Van Slyke, “That’s just part of the game. You hit one of our guys, we’ll protect them. Just let them know you understand what’s going on. But I think the playoffs are the playoffs. Nobody wants to give up free bases.”