ST. LOUIS — Hanley Ramirez tried, he said. He gave it a shot. Ramirez took several swings before Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday, but his bruised ribs were too sore to play. The Los Angeles Dodgers could have used someone like Ramirez in the lineup, too, because they managed just five hits — four singles — against the St. Louis Cardinals, losing 1-0 to fall into an 0-2 hole in the best-of-seven series.
"I was trying to play all day," said Ramirez, who has been suffering from other injuries for most of the season, including a bad back and a sore hamstring. "I tried to hit, but it was too painful. At the last minute, we had to say no. It hurts."
Outfielder Andre Ethier also didn't start because of soreness in his left ankle area, the same reason he had taken one at-bat since Sept. 13 until making a start in Game 1. Skip Schumaker played center in Game 2, as he had been doing in Ethier's place. As a pinch hitter in the ninth, Ethier struck out for the final out of the game.
The Dodgers figured Ethier was a maybe, at best. But they were counting on Ramirez, who batted .345/.402/.638 with 20 homers 336 plate appearances in the regular season.
In the first inning of Game 1, Ramirez was hit high in the ribs with a pitch by Joe Kelly of the Cardinals. He stayed in the game, walking three times and scoring a run, but the Dodgers lost 3-2 in 13 innings.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly penciled Ramirez's name into the lineup for Game 2, but erased it about an hour before the first pitch. Nick Punto played shortstop instead — doing well on defense — and the Dodgers shuffled the batting order. It wasn't the same without Ramirez.
"It’s tough," ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw said. "Hanley’s been our best player every time he’s been in the lineup. You can’t dwell on it, but it definitely doesn’t help."
Catcher A.J. Ellis differed, saying the Dodgers, who went 42-8 during one point of the season, should be able overcome the loss of any one player, or two.
"For our team, it shouldn’t be a factor," Ellis said. "We played so many games with guys banged up, or not in the lineup. Obviously, when we had our hot run, we had a pretty fully loaded team, but there were guys still missing. The great thing about the team they’ve assembled here is we have guys who can fill the hole."
Adrian Gonzalez moved up to third in the order (Ramirez's usual spot) and Yasiel Puig batted cleanup — which was a complete disaster. Puig struck out all four times he batted, including in a crucial situation in the sixth when a well-placed fly ball would have scored the tying run. He's 0 for 10 with six strikeouts in the series.
An X-ray came back negative on Ramirez's ribs, but he said more medical tests, such as a CT scan, are scheduled for him in Los Angeles. He's hopeful he can play, and that the Dodgers can rally.
"We're only down two games," Ramirez said. "We have a good team. It's not over."
Mattingly, too, is hopeful for Ramirez.
"I'm assuming — which I probably shouldn't do — but if it's negative, it's going to be 'if he can move and be able to swing the bat, then he'd be able to play,' " Mattingly said. "So I don't know where that's going to go."
Ethier also could use the travel day to rest up. If Ramirez can't go in Game 3, more pressure will be on Ethier to start. It's not an ideal situation for the Dodgers.