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.”