The Los Angeles Dodgers used Clayton Kershaw on short rest and needed a Juan Uribe go-ahead home run in the eighth inning of Game 4 of the NL Division Series against the Atlanta Braves to advance to the NL Championship Series.
Heading into the best-of-seven series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Dodgers were considered by many the favorite to reach the Fall Classic. However, that quickly changed when Hanley Ramirez was struck by a Joe Kelly fastball on his ribs and the shortstop, nor the Dodgers recovered.
Beginning Friday, the two teams meet again in the postseason, though this time a round earlier than they did in 2013. Matt Kemp discussed the confidence the Dodgers have, which spawns from their postseason experience last year, via Michael Lananna of MLB.com:
I think people from last year learned a lot about themselves, have grown and know how to handle that pressure of being in the playoffs,” outfielder Matt Kemp said. “I’ve been in the playoffs a couple times, it’s intense. It’s not something you can just go in and be ready for.
On the final day of the regular season in 2013, the Dodgers announced Kemp would miss the postseason due to needing ankle surgery. While there was some concern regarding Dee Gordon’s hip irritation and Hyun-Jin Ryu’s shoulder irritation, both players appear to be on track to play in the NLDS; Gordon said his hip is a non-issue and Ryu threw a simulated game Wednesday.
Adrian Gonzalez believes the Dodgers will benefit from being better off health-wise this time around:
I don’t know about preparation, but we’re better,” first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. “Kemp’s in the lineup, Carl’s in, we’ve got our whole outfield healthy, we’ve got Hanley healthy. We basically have our whole team healthy, and it looks like we’ll be able to pitch. I think going into it healthy is a big factor.”
Ramirez hasn’t been the same offensive force he was for the Dodgers in 2013, but Adrian Gonzalez has been a steady bat for much of the season and Kemp has come on strong since the All-Star break. While the Dodgers can draw from the postseason experience they gained last year, it will take more than that to eliminate a veteran Cardinals team.