If there was one buzzword taking flight on the lips in the Dodgers’ clubhouse Tuesday night, it was “adjustments.” Carl Crawford dropped the “A-word” after the Dodgers dropped Game 4. So did Adrian Gonzalez.
Now, making adjustments is less a cliche than the difference between the possible end of the Dodgers’ season, and a possible Game 6 on Friday in St. Louis.
Buster Olney, in his morning blog for ESPN.com, wrote today about how the Boston Red Sox are adjusting to injured Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera and stifling the presumptive American League MVP in the ALCS. It’s a given that the same cat-and-mouse game is playing out in the NLCS.
Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier is injured, and the Cardinals are certainly taking notice and making adjustments.
“I can’t get quite back on my back side like I want to,” Ethier said before Game 4. “But it’s still just figuring out a way to get a good pitch, put a good swing on it.
Ethier caught the mouse in Game 4. He went 2-for-3 with a walk, one of few Dodgers who didn’t have a truly poor at-bat Tuesday.
Ramirez, by contrast, was in visible pain as he went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts.
“It tells me more that (Ramirez) was afraid to pull the trigger last night,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Day to day it seems like he’s different one day to the next. He’s saying he’s better than yesterday. He wants to go. I think they’re going to pitch the way they pitch. You’re going to try to get him out the way you had a game plan to get him out.”
But the concept of making adjustments goes beyond Ethier and Ramirez, and any other Dodger injuries the Cardinals’ pitchers are trying to exploit.
Now that the Dodgers have seen Joe Kelly once, and the Cardinals have seen Zack Greinke once, the entirety of Game 5 hinges on adjustments. If the quality of pitching, fielding and hitting remain roughly equal, the team that makes the best adjustments will win.
“We’ve seen Joe now two times,” Dodgers center fielder Skip Schumaker said. “Hopefully we can make that adjustment against him from Game 1 to now. We’ve got a pretty good pitcher on our side going. Hopefully Greinke can at least match what Joe did to us in Game 1.”
The Cardinals’ bullpen is full of flamethrowers in the 95-100 mph range, and that might be the biggest difference between the two Championship Series. To beat St. Louis, the Dodgers hitters need to do more than outfox their opponents; they need tremendous bat speed.
That’s one reason why a Dodgers’ win or loss today can’t fall entirely on the advance scouting department, and it’s probably why a hobbled Ramirez is still in the lineup. “He gives us the best chance,” Mattingly said.
It’s more than a subplot to Game 5. Call it a co-plot.
Here are the lineups for both teams: