Category Archives: Behind the Scenes

An opportunity lost, but another one coming right behind it

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The clubhouse was quiet, but not like it traditionally is after a loss. This time, there simply were too many people around for it to be that quiet. Too many reporters asking too many questions about what had gone so unthinkably wrong on an evening when the Dodgers seemed to have everything lined up in their favor before they took the field. They had Clayton Kershaw on the mound. In a last-minute development, they had Hanley Ramirez, in whatever condition he was in, in their lineup. And they even won a small victory before the game even started, Scott Van Slyke refusing to leave the field or break from his national-anthem stance until Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly did so across the way, and Kelly finally blinked when an unamused plate umpire Greg Gibson told them it was time to stop this silliness because there was a game to play.

After that, though, nothing had gone according to script. Kershaw blew up. Kershaw doesn’t blow up. Ever. Kershaw is about to win his second National League Cy Young Award. He is unflappable. At times, he is unhittable. And there was no way he was ever going to blow up in the N.L. Championship Series, in a game the Dodgers had to win to extend their season. But somehow, some way, he had. And somehow, some way, the Dodgers had been shut down AGAIN by Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha, who took home the NLCS Most Valuable Player award because in two starts, he blanked the Dodgers on seven hits over 13 2/3 innings.

And somehow, some way, the Dodgers had missed the World Series for the 25th year in a row.

Dreams die hard, and this one died as if it plunged from the top of the Gateway Arch. The Dodgers had the highest payroll in baseball. They had new owners who made everybody forget all about that guy from Boston whose name nobody seems to bring up anymore. They had a rotation full of aces and a lineup full of impact hitters and a bullpen that was money. But yet, when the misery of this 9-0 humiliation to close out the season was finally complete, the Dodgers scurried to get off the field and up the clubhouse tunnel in an attempt to minimize the amount of time they had to watch the Cardinals literally dancing and singing in the rain, having just punched their fourth ticket to the World Series in the past 10 years.

The disappointment cuts deep, as much for the Dodgers’ fans as for the players themselves. And as general manager Ned Colletti pointed out after the game, there is always next year, but this year, this team, this particular group, is gone forever.

A missed opportunity. A dream that died hard.

“This is sports, and it’s supposed to be exciting,” Colletti said. “I think this group of guys was exciting in a lot of ways. I’m going to miss these guys, because it’s never the same group. Even if everybody came back, it’s still never the same guys. I’m going to miss these guys. I think that is why I’m unhappy to see the season end. This is a special group of people.”

The Dodgers have a handful of free agents, some of whom they probably will retain and some of whom they won’t. We’ll get into more detail on that in the coming days. They will make trades this winter to address some needs, and probably sign a moderately priced free agent or two, as well. When they do, when the proverbial hot stove heats up, the fans will get excited, and when spring training rolls around, that excitement will reach a crescendo all over again. And while the memory of tonight won’t go away, the bitter feeling of disappointment will be long gone, replaced by the renewed hope of another season fast approaching.

Right now, none of that is important. Right now, if you are a devoted Dodgers fan, all you are feeling is despair and maybe even a little hopelessness. After all, if THIS Dodgers team can’t get to the World Series, if what was arguably the deepest and most talented team in the franchise’s long, storied history — and certainly the most high-priced — then what hope do the Dodgers have?

Well, take heart, my friends, and consider this: the current playoff format is a complete and total crapshoot. It doesn’t reward you for being the best team in the postseason. It rewards you for getting to the postseason, showing up every day, taking each game one at a time and plodding along until you have managed to win 11 games (12 if you came in as a wild card). This year, that team isn’t the Dodgers. Next year, even in the unlikely event the Dodgers have a slight dropoff in talent from this year’s team, it very well might be.

Take these Cardinals, for example. In 2004 and 2005, they entered the postseason with great teams. Loaded teams. Stacked teams. Teams with deep, power-laden lineups and solid starting pitching. Teams that could have, and possibly should have, won the World Series. And yet, neither of them did. The 2004 squad rolled into the World Series, but then got humiliated by the Boston Red Sox. The 2005 team was headed off in the NLCS by the Houston Astros, a wildcard team from the Cardinals’ own division.

Profound disappointment. A sense of an opportunity having come and gone, without ever being realized.

And then, in 2006, a very mediocre Cardinals team barely won the N.L. Central. They won 83 regular-season games. That’s a shade above .500, but it was good enough to win a truly awful division. And then, the Cardinals played a game at a time. And pretty soon, they had vanquished the San Diego Padres, the New York Mets and the heavily favored Detroit Tigers. And the mediocre, 83-win Cardinals were world champions.

My point is, with the playoff format the way it is now, the way it has been since the switch from four divisions to six in 1994, you simply can’t go in thinking, “world championship or bust.” It doesn’t work that way anymore. Of the past three World Series champions, the 2010 Giants, the 2011 Cardinals and the 2012 Giants, all three were considered long shots when the playoffs began. Not one of them could make the argument it was the best team going in.

That said, and payroll aside, the Dodgers were vanquished in this NLCS by a superior team. The Cardinals were the best the N.L. had to offer in 2013. In 2014, this Dodgers team only figures to get better. The bulk of the rotation, Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu, will all be back, along with a presumably healthy and hopefully rejuvenated Josh Beckett and a surgically repaired Chad Billingsley. They may lose Juan Uribe to free agency, but the core of Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez all are under control for next season, such an embarrassment of riches that the Dodgers may trade one of them this winter just to clear a spot in the lineup.

The program cover in the photo above was wrong. That wasn’t “next year,” 1952, and so the never-ending “Wait ‘Til Next Year” battle cry of the Brooklyn Dodgers lived on, for three more years, until they finally got that elusive first World Series title in franchise history in 1955. And you know what, 2014 might not be next year for the Dodgers, either. Or it might be. Or they might come even closer than they did this year, and fall even more tantalizingly, agonizingly short than they did on Friday night at Busch Stadium.

But it’s going to be a lot of fun finding out, isn’t it? And no matter how heartbroken you may be right at this moment, come spring, you and the Dodgers are going to be ready to start on this road all over again — all the while believing that it just might be the year when this team finally gets to its intended destination.

Until then, just remember, time heals all wounds. But as much as those wounds may be hurting right now, they are an important part of why you love this team and why we all love this game.

Overheard in the press box …

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Couple of veteran scribes were perusing the official transcript of Don Mattingly’s pregame media session when one of them noticed that the person who asked the first question had addressed Donnie as, “Skipper.” Well, this is an old-time baseball term for the manager, and I suspect players all over the game still routinely address their managers as “Skip,” when not addressing them by their first names or their clubhouse nicknames (such as “Donnie B”). But for media who cover the game, it’s probably bad form to address the manager as Skipper — even though I myself have often addressed Donnie as “Skip” when passing him in a hallway or on the back fields at spring training or whatever. For us media types, addressing the manager as “Skipper” is considered uncool — and believe me, when it comes to cool, we middle-aged, rumpled and somewhat-paunchy baseball writers pretty well have the market cornered on cool.

So after laughing at the utter uncoolness of this faceless person identified on the transcript only by the letter “Q” (for questioner), one of these veteran scribes comes up with this gem:

“The only person who should ever be addressed as ‘Skipper’ is Alan Hale Jr.”

Alan Hale Jr. Now THERE is a name you don’t often hear dropped in a major league press box.

Final thoughts on Game 5, Molina and a possible NLCS pivot point

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If the Dodgers manage to come all the way back in this National League Championship Series, the turning point will have been two at-bats today by Yadier Molina, the Cardinals catcher and a darkhorse N.L. Most Valuable Player candidate, who was anything but valuable to his club at the plate today.

With the Cardinals hungry to put this thing away and threatening to do so right off the bat against an uncharacteristically shaky Zack Greinke (who later admitted to being nervous), Molina came to the plate in the top of the first inning with the bases loaded and one out and promptly grounded into a third-to-first double play, siphoning off the threat and igniting a crowd of 53,183.

And then, with the Dodgers having taken a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second and the Cardinals having bounced right back to tie it with two in the top of the third and threatening to get more, Molina stepped into the box with runners on the corners and one out. And promptly hit a doubleplay grounder right back to Greinke, siphoning off that threat and reigniting a crowd that never really quieted thereafter.

The Dodgers jumped back in front on the first of Adrian Gonzalez‘s two homers in the bottom of that inning, and the second of Molina’s two GIDPs began a run of 13 consecutive batters retired by Greinke until he finally was lifted after the top of the seventh. Eight of those 13 outs came on ground balls.

Molina, by the way, struck out in his other two at-bats. He is 3-for-17 in the series.

By the way, the Dodgers’ four home runs tied their all-time, single-season club record for an NLCS game. Their previous four-homer NLCS game was Game 1 of the 1978 NLCS at old Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia. In that game, Steve Garvey hit two while Davey Lopes and Steve Yeager hit one apiece.

By the way II, if the Dodgers do come back to win this series, Greinke has staked his own claim for series Most Valuable Player. In two starts, he has given up four runs on 10 hits over 15 innings, with 14 strikeouts and only two walks. For the sabermetricians out there, that is a 0.8 WHIP.

By the way III, the Dodger Stadium press box is the same one that was built when the ballpark itself was built in 1962, and it never really has been upgraded in 52 years. It’s small and cramped, and if you’re claustrophobic like I am, it is especially uncomfortable when it gets crowded, as it is for the postseason, and when it’s hot outside, as it was for all three of these games.

So in a classic veteran move, I gave my assigned seat to colleague Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register and set up shop in the media workroom — which is really the media dining room, but they converted it into a workroom for the postseason — and watched the game on TV. As luck would have it, I have had the pleasure of sitting around a table for the past three days with good friends Tracy Ringolsby, Adam McCalvy, Alyson Footer and Steve Gilbert, all of MLB.com, and Michael Martinez of FoxSportsWest.com, and we had a blast. We laughed incessantly, mocked each other mercilessly and ate way too many snacks, and yet we somehow managed to get all our work done.

Now, it’s on to St. Louis, where seven-year-old Busch Stadium has a big, spacious, comfortable press box. Doesn’t sound like nearly as much fun.

The dream survives, and so do the Dodgers

The words were there to be functional and symbolic all at the same time, but they were impossible to miss, scrawled on the dry-erase board in the Dodgers clubhouse following Game 5 of a National League Championship Series that isn’t nearly as close to being over as the St. Louis Cardinals had hoped it was.

“Pack for your next opponent. Detroit or Boston. Bring a jacket.”

The Dodgers are still alive. Not well, per se. Not yet anyway. But alive. And kicking. And screaming, in a good way. And about to board an airplane for St. Louis, which is where they kind of got themselves into this mess in the first place by dropping the first two games of this series last weekend while scoring a grand total of two runs in 22 innings, but on this trip, they have a chance to redeem themselves. If they can steal two more games from the Cardinals. If they can get the timely hitting they got in the second inning today. If they can get just enough add-on runs like they did today, in the form of the franchise NLCS record-tying four solo homers the Dodgers hit this afternoon after hitting none — zero — in the first four games. If they can become the second team in a row, following in the footsteps of their hated rivals from San Francisco a year ago, to come back to beat the Cardinals in an NLCS after falling behind them 3-1.

The Dodgers only trail the Cardinals 3-2 now. To say they have caught their breath would be a bit of an understatement, because what the Dodgers really have done is get their second wind. This series is still very much advantage: Cardinals, who have to do no more than win one of two games on their home turf. But on what was always going to be long, difficult and darn-near impossible road back once they lost Game 4, the Dodgers already have put one-third of that road behind them.

And they have Clayton Kershaw ready to go for Game 6, not on three days’ rest or four days’ rest, but on five.

They still have an ailing Hanley Ramirez, who started all three of the games here despite the excruciating and at times debilitating pain from a hairline fracture in his left rib cage but wasn’t able to finish any of them. They still have a mildly hobbled Andre Ethier, who struggled in this series to get to a couple of balls that were especially difficult to get to but nevertheless were balls he might have gotten to if not for the lingering leg problem that is getting better but still isn’t completely gone. Oh, and the Dodgers are without Matt Kemp until the spring.

But they are getting decent production throughout the lineup now. They scored six runs today, which was one fewer than they had scored in the first four games combined. They will run up against Michael Wacha in Game 6, the same pitcher who completely handcuffed them in Game 2, and if they survive that, they will run up against Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright in Game 7, when Hyun-jin Ryu is scheduled to pitch.

But the Dodgers have a heartbeat. They have a chartered plane out of town around 3 p.m. tomorrow. And they have a dream that hasn’t died yet.

They even have a dry-erase board in the clubhouse to prove it.

Game 5 lineups: Hanley, Ethier are playing

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If you look behind the guy on the left side of this photo, you might be able to see a wooden crate shoved into the corner against the wall. I may be misreading this entire scenario, but I don’t think I am — I believe that crate contains the National League championship trophy, and I wasn’t alone in that room in thinking that. It is obviously very heavy, as it was wheeled into the interview room on a dolly in between appearances by Skip Schumaker and Don Mattingly, and then carefully shoved into the nook next to the table.

I actually asked MLB’s Katy Feeney, the behatted interview-room moderator whom you see on the right side of this photo, if the crate contains the trophy. Katy, who is famous for her hats, deadpanned, “Those are my hats.”

By the way, I’m guessing the guy standing in front of the trophy is an MLB security person. Once the crate was hauled in and put into place, he never stepped more than a foot away from it at any point.

The Dodgers will set about the business this afternoon of trying to force MLB to fly that crate halfway across the country, and they will do so with Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier in the lineup. David Freese, who was pulled from each of the past two games because of right-calf tightness, also is in the lineup for the Cardinals.

Cardinals:
Carpenter 2B
Beltran RF
Holliday LF
Adams 1B
Molina C
Jay CF
Freese 3B
Kozma SS
Kelly P

Dodgers:
Crawford LF
M Ellis 2B
Ramirez SS
Gonzalez 1B
Ethier CF
Puig RF
Uribe 3B
AJ Ellis C
Grienke P

It isn’t hopeless, but it’s a long shot

Twenty-five years to the day after Kirk Gibson dispatched him to the dugout in the ninth inning of the opening game of the World Series to tell Tommy Lasorda he was available to pinch hit, Mitch Poole, who was a bat boy then and is the Dodgers head clubhouse guy now, sprang into action once again in response to another Dodgers player who was forced out of postseason action by a debilitating injury tonight. The media scrum around Hanley Ramirez‘s locker, which is near the door, was so thick that Poole had to actually move a clubhouse couch so other players who had showered and dressed could get to the exit. This after inactive reliever Brandon League actually climbed OVER the couch to get out.

Deep inside that scrum, in the middle of what had to be about two dozen questions, many of them repetitive, Ramirez sat in a chair, wearing only a towel around his waist, and patiently answered every one of them. Even the one from a TV guy who asked if he felt like he was letting his teammates down by not being able to be on the field on such a monumental occasion.

The question wasn’t meant to sound as insensitive as it did. But it also made a point, even if it made that point rather awkwardly. Because Ramirez — much as Gibson was a quarter of a century ago — is the Dodgers’ most important offensive player at this most important time of the season, and he left tonight’s game after seven innings. And although he said he will come in tomorrow and that he will “definitely” be in the lineup for Game 5, the fact he is experiencing such excruciating pain from the hairline fracture in his left rib and the fact there is less than a 17-hour turnaround from the end of this game to the beginning of the next one would seem to suggest it might be a longer shot than Ramirez is willing to admit.

Not as long a shot, though, as the notion that the Dodgers can still win this National League Championship Series.

The Dodgers now trail the Cardinals 3-1 in the best-of-seven series. There is plenty of precedent for teams coming back from that, and the Dodgers have their dual aces, Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, ready to go for Games 5 and 6, respectively, Greinke on regular rest on Kershaw with an extra day due to the schedule. If they can push it to Game 7, they will have an apparently rejuvenated Hyun-jin Ryu ready for that one.

So to answer the rhetorical question that a radio buddy asked as he passed through the media workroom after the game, yes, I AM saying there’s a chance.

There just isn’t a very good one.

Keep in mind, the Cardinals blew a 3-1 lead in this thing last year on their way to losing to the Giants. But the Cardinals didn’t have homefield advantage in that one. This time, they do. And if they fail to get it done in tomorrow’s matinee, they have the comfort of knowing that the rest of the series will be played in the comfort of their own Busch Stadium. And add to all that the fact that this is essentially the same team with the same players. They remember well what it felt like to cough up that series. So perish any thought of them suffering a letdown or a bout of overconfidence.

So the Dodgers face a tough road back, and they might face it without Ramirez. If they’re going to pull it off, they can’t think about winning three games in a row. They just have to think about winning one game. And then winning another. And then winning another. And if they can pull that off, they will be in the World Series for the first time since 1988, when Gibson’s homer kickstarted their inexorable march to a world championship.

Still, from where the Dodgers sit right now, having not only lost three of four but having scored a grand total of seven runs in those four games, a world championship seems a little farfetched in 2013. But as Ricky Nolasco — who can hardly be blamed for giving up three runs and lasting just four innings after being put in the rather unusual situation of starting Game 4 of the NLCS after not starting any other game for almost three weeks — said after the game, “Stranger things have happened.”

Yes, a lot of strange things do happen in this game. But most of the time, they don’t. That’s why they are called “strange.”

Sights and sounds from Game 2

The Cardinals held a joint press conference before the game today with Tony LaRussa and Red Schoendienst, the two winningest managers in franchise history. Schoendienst, who guided the Redbirds to a World Series title in 1967, is 90 years old, and while he still appears to have his full faculties about him, a couple of moments in this presser were pretty funny. The first question he was asked was about the success the Cardinals have had in recent years, going to the National League Championship Series eight times in the past 14 years.

This was his answer:

“Well, anytime you can be in this many playoff games and trying to get to the World Series, I think it’s outstanding for the Cardinals, for any club. I really didn’t understand all of what you were saying. I can’t hear a word.”

And then at the end, somebody asked Red about his ’67 world championship team.

“Well I had a leadoff man (Lou Brock) who was a pretty good guy. He would sell a lot of tickets. And I had a pitcher (Bob Gibson) that was pretty damn good out there, too. So when you have guys like that … I had some guys, Mike Shannon, and we got (Roger) Maris, when he went in the outfield. … Shannon is a winner. He is going to give you a hundred percent where he can win. We won with guys like that. Then Tommy Herr coming around, and Maxi (Dal Maxvill) playing short. The one guy that was really underrated, I think, was our center fielder (Curt) Flood. He was a good second-place hitter, and with Brock leading off, we had a good, solid ballclub.”

Great memories on Red’s part, except for one — Tommy Herr, who came to the major leagues in 1979, was 11 years old in 1967. But you know, I just HOPE I live to be 90, and if I do, I hope I’m half as sharp as Red still is.

By the way, as the Dodgers dressed in a somber clubhouse after the game in preparation for their flight home, the players outnumbered by the media roughly 5-1, Andre Ethier was sporting a polka-dot suit. Honestly, I think the last time I saw somebody in a polka-dot suit was when I was in college at the University of Arkansas, when Nolan Richardson used to wear them on the bench. It was his trademark at the time. A few years later, by which time I had graduated and Nolan was leading the Hogs deep into March Madness every year (and to a national championship in 1994), thankfully, he had shelved the polka-dot suits.

Great seeing longtime Dodgers scout Carl Loewenstine here the past two days. Carl, who lives in the Cincinnati area, is retiring after the season, and he will be missed. One of the truly wonderful people in the organization and in the game. Every time I have a conversation with him, he ends it with the words, “God bless you.” Well, God bless YOU, Carl, and here is hoping you have a long, happy retirement. No one deserves it more than you do.

Unedited and unfiltered, Mattingly’s full pregame media session

The transcriptions are provided to MLB by ASAP Sports. I posted this because, whether you agree or disagree with the decision, I do think he did a great job of stating his reason for the decision. You can read this and decide for yourself if you see what I’m seeing.

Q. Was the decision to pitch Clayton Kershaw today made by committee? And did Clayton also lobby to do it?

DON MATTINGLY: I’d say probably a little bit of all of that, definitely by committee. Wouldn’t be something I would just take on and say that’s what we’re doing. The scenario was something that we talked about before the season even ended. Once we knew we were in and had ourselves set up, seeing the schedule for the playoffs, we looked at different scenarios for Game 4 and what they could be. Primarily when you look at that you’re looking if you’re behind there and what do you need to do. Then as we kept looking at it, it made more and more sense. If it worked out, again, if it worked out, that you’d be able to go Clayton Game 4. Then if something wouldn’t work out here, have Zack for Game 5.

So that’s kind of how we started the thought process. Put that, again, before the playoffs even started and the season was even over, lay that out with Clayton, seeing where he was at with it. Let him basically do whatever he wanted with it. Then after Game 1, he was barking right after the game that he was ready for Game 4. We’re like, no, no, no, no, no. Let’s see where you’re at tomorrow. Let’s see how you’re doing. Then really that process was just a matter of waiting things out to see if he kind of responded to everything and how he was feeling, and then really making sure one last time that he was a hundred percent with it. Because if it was something that he wasn’t a hundred percent with, and really everyone wasn’t with, we wouldn’t do this. So that’s how it came about.

Q. Hesitation with the fact that he threw 124 pitches and has never started on short rest particularly in the Postseason?

DON MATTINGLY: That sounds probably right in today’s game. The game I take him out at 122, he would have went back out and he probably could have gone 160, to be honest with you. He never comes out of a game that he feels like he’s tired. Obviously, we wouldn’t do that to him.

But as we talked to him last night and we basically say, hey, Clay, you’ve got to be a hundred percent sure. We’re not going to take any chances with your career. That is the last thing we’d do. And he says all the work I do, everything I go through every start, it’s for this kind of game. So he was the one basically saying this is why I work so hard. This is the game I want.

Q. So when did you make the final call, and when do you tell Ricky the change of plans?

DON MATTINGLY: Before we left last night is really when we wanted to get all the way through it. Made sure kind of final, final on it, you know? Then before we left we let Ricky know where we were at.

Q. Having someone like Zack on your team, did it help make the decision to start Clayton a little easier knowing you’ve got someone like that that could come through tomorrow?

DON MATTINGLY: No question. It’s like you’ve got two aces. It was just it really made it I think it’s the reason you come up with the scenario for this game when you’re ahead 2 1. I think if you’re behind 2 1, it’s easy. But if you’re ahead, it wouldn’t have, for me, without Zack being there, I don’t think you make the same decision.

Q. If Ricky had pitched the same way in his last three starts as he had in his first 12, would you have made the same decision, or would you have made a different call?

DON MATTINGLY: I think I don’t think this has anything to do with Ricky. It’s really more to do with Clayton and Zack. When we told Ricky last night, he goes, I understand. You’ve got the best guy in the game out there tonight. So Ricky was again, we go to these games and you really, you’re looking to win. I mean, you want your best chance to win, and this really we feel like gives us the best chance to win.

Q. You mentioned this was a decision by committee. Who all was on the committee?

DON MATTINGLY: Obviously, everybody. My bosses and with Ned and his group. We’ve talked about these scenarios and as they came down, we continued to talk and back and forth.

Q. Was Kasten a part of that too?

DON MATTINGLY: Stan usually is not in any of the talks. I’m assuming I don’t know how that chain of command works. I’m assuming that Stan is obviously, it wouldn’t be my place to tell Stan. It’s Ned’s place to tell Stan.

Q. You often talk about not wanting to put guys in a position to do something they’re not used to doing, taking them out of their comfort zone. Does this go kind of against that a little bit?

DON MATTINGLY: I don’t think so. This is pretty normal I think for the playoffs. I think you see it all the time. I know I’ve faced a guy in ’95 that pretty much did this in Randy Johnson. So if we were asking him to play first base today, that would be a little out of his comfort zone. I think on the mound he’s pretty comfortable.

Obviously, we think too much of Clayton to do anything that if he wasn’t a hundred percent sure, hundred percent on board, if people weren’t I mean, you’re always going to question whatever, but we just feel pretty comfortable with it.

Q. How much did you or did you not toil over this decision, and obviously if it works out, that’s great; but if it doesn’t, you’re to Game 5 and that decision is questioned.

DON MATTINGLY: Well, I can’t really honestly, if you save everything for one game, I think I’d question myself a lot more when you have two aces and if you don’t play them both. We’ve got two chances to we’ve got two chances if something doesn’t work out the way we want it to tonight, then we’re sitting with an ace in Game 5.

Q. Did Clayton do anything different in between considering the fact that he had shorter rest?

DON MATTINGLY: He did something with his program. He would probably talk about it later. But I think it was just a matter of cutting out one of the I don’t know exactly what his exact routine is. But he just went a little lighter.

Q. Second thing, how concerned are you about the way Paco Rodriguez has pitched? And how do you analyze the way he’s pitched over the last couple of weeks anyway?

DON MATTINGLY: A.J. said his stuff was good last night. Said it’s the best it’s been in a little bit. But obviously, that tells us something last night. Still doesn’t again, like we talked about Ricky earlier, and you just don’t and Hyun Jin has a little bit of a rough game it doesn’t kick Paco out of any plans. It just means he’s in a little stretch right now where he’s had some stuff going on with him as far as not getting outs.

It’s like anybody else. Somebody’s either swinging the bat good right now or they’re not. Paco’s been through a little stretch. Doesn’t mean we lose confidence in him and know who he is. I think the thing we love about Paco is it’s always professional. From day one, this guy is quiet. He goes about his business. He does all his work, and that’s what we pay attention to. Make sure he continues to stay on his program. Not all of a sudden change. Make sure that we’re able to communicate with him from the standpoint of you’re not going through something that anybody else hasn’t gone through. Just he’s going through it right now. So we’ll just be aware of that.

Q. Your pitching coach was quoted last night saying that you would not pitch Kershaw today because you wouldn’t jeopardize his future. This kid is our future. Can I assume he was a dissenting vote or he was the last guy to come around? Or was that him just sort of towing the company line until there was a public announcement?

DON MATTINGLY: Well, I don’t know if the words that you use are his exact words. But I don’t know if it was something to the fact of, why wouldn’t you? So I think why wouldn’t you is part of it is some of the reason that’s we go over. He’s part of the future of this organization. He’s one of the best young pitchers in baseball. That’s the reason that you would think not to. I don’t think he’s I know he didn’t say anything about not wanting to, because I’ve been in all the meetings.

Q. There’s been a lot of speculation, and I know you’ve heard a lot of it about your future. Is the decision to set up a Kershaw Greinke thing related to that at all? You need to win the series?

DON MATTINGLY: No, it’s nothing to do with my future. It’s just winning period. We’re trying to win a game today. We’re trying to put ourselves in the best position to win a game today.

Q. How much thought did you give to what this does for a potential NLCS rotation?

DON MATTINGLY: It’s about winning today. Obviously, we know what it does if we’re able to take care of our business tonight. But I don’t think you can this is not a time to look ahead. This is a time to take care of your business in one game. We talk about momentum in the playoffs. We win Game 1. We feel good. You lose Game 2. You feel bad. You win Game 3. You feel good. So it’s day to day. We want to win today, and this gives us our best chance.

Q. Bottom line, do you think you’re taking a risk here?

DON MATTINGLY: I don’t. I think if I don’t think Clayton does. If this would have been a decision that we try to make without him being involved with it, it would be something totally different. If he wasn’t a hundred percent on board, and, again, I think the words that we listen to and his words, that’s why he works so hard. He works so hard to get to this position and to be in this game. That’s why you do extra work. That’s why we protect him all year long. I know he threw a lot of innings this year, but his pitch count did not run a bunch over I can probably count the times on one hand it went over 115. So we protect our guys all year long to be able to get them in position where when you have a chance to do something.

I’m not having to push any of these guys to do anything. I’m not going to have to push Hanley on the field because his leg’s a little sore. These guys want to be out there and they want to do what they’re doing. So this isn’t about us trying to get these guys to do something. They want to accomplish something.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports.

Cross their hearts and pinky swear, Hyun-Jin Ryu is fine, just fine

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Here is his entire, postgame interview-room transcript, so you can see the words for yourself.

The question was asked of Don Mattingly first, but only because he came into the interview room before Hyun-Jin Ryu did. Here is Mattingly’s answer:

“It seemed like he had trouble getting settled in, and tonight was one of those nights. Usually with him, there is more swing and miss, and there was really no swing and miss tonight. His velocity was OK. It seemed like he touched 93 (mph), and we have seen him starting out at 90-91, which is pretty normal for him. He just didn’t seem to have that same finish and be able to locate. So you know, it was just one of those rough nights. … It just seemed like he was a little out of sorts tonight. Just got going a little too fast. … He was fine (physically). There were no restrictions on him tonight. … If there had been anything physically wrong, we wouldn’t have let him pitch today.”

And then, there was a follow-up from one of the Korean reporters, asking if Ryu will be given another chance to pitch in this postseason.

“We hope,” Mattingly said. “You know, if we can win, put another win on the board, he gets another opportunity. We don’t turn our back on guys that have had great seasons for us after one game. So yeah, he is part of what we do.”

And then a little while later, Ryu himself came into the interview room and answered questions through an interpreter. He was extremely contrite about the two botched defensive plays on back-to-back hitters in that third inning. But when asked about his physical well-being, he was just as insistent as his manager that there is nothing wrong.

“There was absolutely no injury whatsoever,” he said. “Of course, there was anxiety, and I was a little bit nervous taking the mound. … I was fully confident that my body was fine. I know myself better than anyone else. It doesn’t matter what people say. I’m not hurt, so it wasn’t a distraction at all.”

Well OK, then.

By the way, you will notice that the postgame video that I normally post wasn’t posted tonight. That was because I was told by a Major League Baseball official that I wasn’t allowed to videotape anything from the interview room. I went to the clubhouse and got a little bit from Chris Capuano, which I will post, but most of the guys who really played a significant part in the outcome of tonight’s game were brought to the interview room.

I don’t think this is going to be a problem beyond tonight. I have known this particular MLB official for years and always have had a good working relationship with her. I asked her later to clarify exactly which rule prohibits me from shooting and posting video from the interview room, and she was perfectly conciliatory, said she would check and get back to me tomorrow and that it might be perfectly OK for me to do it, she just wants to be certain. So just bear with me on this, and hopefully things will be back to normal by tomorrow.

And if the Dodgers wrap up the series tomorrow, I’ll try to get video of the clubhouse celebration just as I did when they clinched the division two weeks ago.

Finally, just as I guessed it would, the whole Clayton Kershaw-or-Ricky Nolasco thing became a moot point when the Dodgers took care of business tonight.

“The biggest thing was getting the win today,” Mattingly said. “That has kind of been the plan the whole time, is kind of to win every day. I would like to be able to close us out tomorrow. I didn’t know there was a debate (about Kershaw vs. Nolasco for Game 4), really. Lot of questions, right? You never know what happens. Twists and turns of this game.”

I’ll have another, longer post on Hanley Ramirez coming up shortly. Oh, and the Capuano video.

Miscellaneous pregame notebook-emptying

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I took a picture of these people, who were all dressed in Braves gear, lined up outside the door to the press box after the game last night as I was waiting for the elevator downstairs. They obviously were waiting for an autograph from somebody. I asked one of the Braves writers who they were waiting for, and he said, “Probably Vin Scully.” And you know what, he was probably right, because who else would they be waiting for? The man is just huge, everywhere he goes, even with fans of other teams. And while I didn’t have time to stick around to find out, I’m betting he signed for every person, because there were only a dozen or so, and he probably smiled and greeted each one as he did so.

When I arrived here today, there already were a couple of guys waiting in that same spot.

Speaking of Vinnie, I just ran into him at the coffee pot. I filled up my cup as he was grabbing a cold drink, then one of the Japanese reporters stepped in and filled her cup, and then Vinnie said, “Is that Georgia coffee? Yeah, I’ll have some Georgia coffee.” If there is something about Georgia coffee that is supposed to be special, I was unaware of it. But I have to admit that after hearing Vinnie say that, the cup I was drinking suddenly started tasting better. You know, there really IS something special about Georgia coffee. If Vinnie implied it, it HAS to be true.

As of right now, the Dodgers are scheduled to have one of those customary off-day workouts at Dodger Stadium tomorrow, but manager Don Mattingly said he is considering canceling it.

“Those are basically eye-warsh,” Mattingly said, using the Indiana pronunciation of “eyewash” — he eventually corrected himself, but I liked it better the way he originally said it.

Anyway, what they basically are is media events. MLB doesn’t really care that much if teams actually work out, they just want the manager and the next day’s pitcher to show up for the interview room. My guess is the Dodgers will hold some kind of optional, voluntary workout on the field, but anybody who doesn’t want to come to the ballpark — except for Mattingly and Hyun-Jin Ryu, of course — will be excused.

“Do we really need to take batting practice again?” Mattingly asked, rhetorically.

The Braves, however, WILL hold a full workout, from 5-7 p.m.

On another note, there is a new development in the saga of Jonathan Denver, the Dodgers fan who was stabbed to death on a San Francisco street corner near AT&T Park last week. Now, Denver’s brother is saying HE was the one who swung a chair at Michael Montgomery, the Giants fan who is claiming he stabbed Denver in self defense. Robert Preece says he swung the chair in an attempt to protect his brother.