LOS ANGELES -- With their season hanging in the balance, the Los Angeles Dodgers might take the field Wednesday without one of their best players.
Hanley Ramirez tried to play with a broken rib in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday night but was replaced in the top of the seventh inning when the pain became too great. Los Angeles ultimately lost 4-2 and dropped into a 3-1 series hole against the St. Louis Cardinals.
When asked whether he would be ready to go Wednesday in Game 5, Ramirez sighed and answered: "I don't know. I don't know."
Ramirez suffered a hairline fracture to his eighth rib when he was hit with a 95 mph fastball from St. Louis pitcher Joe Kelly in the first inning of Game 1 on Friday. He remained in that game but was unable to play the following day. He took the field Monday in the Dodgers' 3-0 Game 3 win and collected two bloop singles but said the pain was much worse Tuesday.
"I just woke up with it feeling worse and I don't know why," Ramirez said. "We were trying to make it better. We did a lot of work but it didn't help. It doesn't feel right."
Ramirez said team trainers wanted to remove him from Game 4 in the early innings but that he insisted on remaining in the game.
"I was like, 'No, I gotta stay in, I gotta stay in,'" said Ramirez, who struck out three times Tuesday. "But I got to a point where I just had to go and come in [to the clubhouse] to get treatment."
There is nothing the team can do for the injury, Ramirez said, except manage the pain with steam, ice, ultrasound equipment and acupuncture. He said leaving Game 4 was not an easy decision for him.
"We were back in the game with men on base, and it looked like we would tie it," Ramirez said. "But they took me out early so I could get treatment and try to come back tomorrow."
The Dodgers are a different team without Ramirez in the lineup, and losing him would be a devastating blow to their offense. Ramirez's 1.040 OPS led the NL this season and was good enough for the second-highest mark in baseball behind Miguel Cabrera (1.078). He had six extra-base hits in the NL Division Series, which tied a franchise record for a postseason series.
The 29-year-old Ramirez battled a multitude of injuries this season and played in only 86 games. He hit .345 and still finished second on the Dodgers in home runs with 20.
Asked how frustrated he is that this injury might sideline him for the team's most important game of the season, Ramirez shook his head and sighed.
"It took a lot of work to get where we are right now, and to just have this one thing [being hit by the pitch], it makes me very angry," he said.
"[Wednesday] I'm gonna come back and expect to see my name in the lineup, but it's gonna be hard," he said. "It's gonna be hard. I'm gonna try to play. I'm gonna go back to my house and get some rest and try to be ready to go."