While it has been generally accepted by all that Cardinals right-hander Joe Kelly did not intentionally hit Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez in the ribs with his 95 MPH fastball in the first inning of Game-1 of the National League Championship Series last Friday night, it’s probably safe to say that the Cardinals weren’t too terribly upset by it – after all, Ramirez is the best hitter on the team and, hey, it’s all part of the game, right? But unfortunately for the Dodgers, Kelly not only took Ramirez out of the game, it was beginning to look as though he may have taken him out of the entire series.
When word reached the Cardinals clubhouse prior to Game-3 of the series at Dodger Stadium on Monday afternoon that Kelly’s errant pitch had fractured one of Ramirez’s ribs, the Cardinals probably assumed that Ramirez was lost for the series. Imagine the shock on their faces when they saw Ramirez’s name in the number three hole of the Dodgers lineup – broken rib and all.
The guy who was undoubtedly most affected by this news was Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, the very best that the Cardinals have and their staff ace. And though you will never get Wainwright to admit it, Ramirez’s presence in the lineup had to have gotten into his head and into the heads of his teammates – especially after Ramirez went 2 for 4 on the night and drove in a huge insurance run in the bottom of the 8th inning.
But wait, there’s more!
Not only was Ramirez back in the Dodgers starting lineup on Monday evening, so too was Dodgers center fielder Andre Ethier. And though Ethier went hitless in his 4 at bats in Game-3, he has had tremendous success against Wainwright in the past, which also had to be in Wainwright’s head.
And then there’s Yasiel Puig.
Although Puig entered Monday night’s game 0 for 10 in the NLCS with six strikeouts, which promptly became seven when he was called out on a third strike that was clearly below his knees, he ended the night going 2 for 3 with a triple that missed going out by mere inches. It also drove in the Dodgers second run of the night in the eventual 3-0 win over the Cards.
Not only must the Cardinals contend with Ramirez and Ethier back in the Dodgers lineup (and in their heads), the also have to contend with the sleeping giant (Puig) that they seemed to have awakened.
The point to all of this is that even though the Cardinals entered play on Monday night up two games to none in the NLCS, the Dodgers beat their best starter, which has to affect their confidence – and that is a very big thing.