Hanley Ramirez in the starting lineup for NLCS Game 5 — facing the pitcher who broke his rib

Big League Stew

The fate of the Los Angeles Dodgers' 2013 season rests with Wednesday's Game 5 at Dodger Stadium. It's been an down-and-up season for the Dodgers, followed by an up-down-up-down postseason. Facing a 3-1 deficit in their National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Dodgers sit in a literal must-win situation.

Thus, broken-ribbed Hanley Ramirez is in the lineup, batting third and playing shortstop. You talk about up-and-down seasons and that's been Ramirez's 2013. He's either been the Dodgers' most crucial hitter or he's been injured.

In this NLCS, he's been playing with a fractured rib ever since he was hit by a pitch in Game 1. Ramirez missed Game 2 completely, then returned for Game 3 after being diagnosed with a hairline fracture. He was 2-for-4 with an RBI and then, even though he wasn't feeling as good, made a go of it again in Tuesday's Game 4. He left that game after six innings and an 0-for-3 day at the plate with three strikeouts.

How important is Ramirez to the Dodgers? Well, it's not a coincidence that his return to the lineup this summer was when the Dodgers got hot and climbed up the NL West standings.

Then there's these two records that sum it up: The Dodgers are 55-29 this season when Ramirez starts and 41-45 when he doesn't. Oh, and he's hitting .400/.516/.760 in the postseason.

It's been made clear that Hanley wouldn't be trying to play with a fractured rib were this not the postseason. So with the Dodgers playing a do-or-die again on Wednesday, he's in the lineup.

Here's a storyline to enjoy: The Dodgers are facing Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly again in Game 5. He hit Ramirez with the pitch in Game 1 that injured him.

If Ramirez collected his revenge against Kelly in Game 5, the timing would be great for the Dodgers.

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Mike Oz is an editor for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at mikeozstew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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