Hanley Ramirez scratched from Dodgers’ lineup for Game 6 of the NLCS.

Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez was diagnosed with a hairline fracture in his 8th rib after Game 1 of the NLCS. (Associated Press photo)


Hanley Ramirez is not in the Dodgers’ starting lineup for Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Friday in St. Louis.

Ramirez has been attempting to play with a hairline fracture in his left ribcage since he was hit by a pitch there in the first inning of Game 1 of the series. Nick Punto will play shortstop and bat eighth, with Yasiel Puig moving from sixth to fourth in the Dodgers’ lineup.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is expected to update Ramirez’s condition shortly.

For the Cardinals, Shane Robinson is taking Jon Jay’s place in center field. Robinson bats right-handed, which Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said was the critical difference against a left-handed pitcher, Clayton Kershaw.

“The thought process is to try to get more offense if we can,” Matheny said. “There’s no secret how Kershaw has done against left-handers. I know (Jay) would have done well today.

“Especially Shane, going off some confidence against a big pinch hit, and we know he plays good defense.”

Here are both teams’ lineups for the 5:30 p.m. game:
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Why have the Dodgers shortened their bench in the playoffs?

Through their first seven postseason games, the Dodgers have given at-bats to three position players off their bench: Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker and Michael Young — no Tim Federowicz, Scott Van Slyke or Dee Gordon.

Why the short bench?

“It depends on how the game goes,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “These games have been telling us what to do. When your starting pitching is going deep every day, you don’t use pinch-hitters. Zack went 8, right? Kersh was 7 full. Ryu — when guys are going deep you don’t use pinch-hitters.”

The script changed on Tuesday. Dodgers starter Ricky Nolasco was removed after four innings. Schumaker pinch-hit for the pitcher’s spot, then was removed from the game, so we could see more of the Dodgers’ bench tonight.

San Francisco Giants 6, Dodgers 4

Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco has allowed 17 earned runs in his last 12 innings, spanning three starts. (Associated Press photo)

If you looked beyond the final score, beyond Ricky Nolasco‘s struggles, you might have noticed the difference between the playoff team and the non-playoff team Wednesday night at AT&T Park.

San Francisco starter Barry Zito was removed from the game, likely his last as a Giant, after pitching five solid innings with the Dodgers trailing 5-2. Zito did not allow a hit until the fourth inning and he did not react well to being removed in the fifth.

A KCAL camera followed the left-hander as he stomped from one end of the dugout to another. Zito appeared to swipe at a water cooler and hastily discard a paper cup, nothing too crazy and nothing that was too difficult to comprehend. After signing a 7-year contract worth $126 million back in 2007, Zito mostly underperformed (ERA-plus of 86) while his teammates won the World Series twice. Wednesday night might have been his last chance to do something right in a Giants uniform; after 77 pitches, he was done.

Nolasco was Zito’s opposite. He labored through a 24-pitch second inning in which the Giants scored three runs, all on a bases-loaded triple by former Dodger Tony Abreu that might have been a grand slam elsewhere.

A two-run home run by Pablo Sandoval in the fourth inning, and an RBI double by Abreu in the sixth, stuck Nolasco with six runs (all earned) in 5 ⅔ innings. He was allowed to throw 95 pitches and pitch into the sixth inning, and it didn’t raise an eyebrow.

For Zito, there was nothing to be gained by his excellence beyond the moment, while giving Nolasco a chance to pitch out of his struggles meant something to the Dodgers, even if they ultimately lost.
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Dodgers draw Barry Zito in their penultimate game against the San Francisco Giants.

Barry Zito

Barry Zito is replacing Madison Bumgarner on the mound for the Giants tonight. (Getty Images)


Veteran Giants left-hander Barry Zito is starting in place of Madison Bumgarner against the Dodgers tonight in San Francisco.

The Giants’ decision to shut down Bumgarner after 31 (mostly good) starts should be a good one for the Dodgers. Zito (4-11) is closing the books on the worst of his 14 major-league seasons and almost certainly his last as a Giant. It’s an important start. It also closes the book on the landmark case against overpaying for a free-agent pitcher with a declining strikeout rate in the middle of his career. To wit: Zito never had an ERA-plus below 100 in seven seasons with the A’s. He signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with San Francisco at age 28 and never posted an ERA-plus above 100 as a Giant.

For the Dodgers, the implications are more subtle.

The starting infield of Michael Young, Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto and Jerry Hairston Jr. is auditioning for jobs in the playoffs. Of the four, Hairston (.370/.541/.630) and Schumaker (.368/.368/.526) have enjoyed considerable success against Zito, while Punto (.286/.286/.286) and Young (.236/.292/.315) have not.

Ricky Nolasco will make what is likely his final regular-season start for the Dodgers. Nolasco has struggled in his last two starts, including a Sept. 14 game against the Giants in which he allowed five earned runs in 1 ⅓ innings — the shortest start of his career. He might still be the Dodgers’ number-three starter in the playoffs depending on the matchup; no announcement has been made beyond Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke pitching games 1 and 2. A good start here might be his last chance to get untracked before October.

Here are the full lineups for both teams:
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Hanley Ramirez scratched from Dodgers’ lineup, undergoes MRI on left hamstring. Update.

Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez leads the Dodgers with a .342 batting average and a 1.024 OPS. (Getty Images)

Hanley Ramirez wasn’t at Dodger Stadium as his teammates filed out for batting practice Friday afternoon. The shortstop underwent an MRI exam on his left hamstring and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said the results might be available later today.

Update (6:15 p.m.) The Dodgers announced that Ramirez has an irritated nerve in his back, which was directly causing the tightness in Ramirez’s hamstring. He received a cortisone injection in his back and is expected to be available to play next week.

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Dodgers infielder Nick Punto ♥ Boston.

Nick Punto

Nick Punto played 65 games with the Boston Red Sox last season before being traded to the Dodgers in August. (Getty Images)

Nick Punto was happy to find out he’d been traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Los Angeles Dodgers last season.

That’s about the worst thing you’ll hear him say about his former team.
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Daily Distractions: Chemistry, cover boys, and Chet Faker’s new tune.

Yasiel Puig Hollywood ReporterYasiel Puig is this week’s Hollywood Reporter cover boy.

Watch the video included with the story. I think it does a great job peeling back the curtain on the sort of shenanigans that go on inside the Dodgers’ clubhouse all the time — not just between Puig and Juan Uribe, and not just when the Hollywood Reporter is making a celebrity out of a baseball player.

Those kind of antics are often difficult for reporters to put into words, language barrier or not. Even when you quote the banter verbatim (here’s a good example from today between Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto), the light-hearted freneticness of the moment doesn’t always jump out of the page/computer screen in a way that screams “this team obviously has good chemistry.”

But yeah, this team obviously has good chemistry.

Some bullet points for a Pakistani Independence Day:
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Dee Gordon commits three errors at shortstop, Dodgers’ patience wanes.

Dee Gordon

Dee Gordon went 2 for 4, with an infield single and a bunt hit, and committed three errors on Sunday. (David Crane/Staff photographer)

Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon went 2 for 4 Sunday. In the field, he ranged to his right to retire Evan Longoria on a tough play in the first inning and also started a double play.

If that was the end of his contribution to an 8-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, Gordon’s day would barely qualify as news. It’s not newsworthy when a one-time top prospect performs well in a substitute role. It’s also easy to overlook one standout performance in a game where Mark Ellis goes 3 for 5 with three RBIs, Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis get two hits, and Clayton Kershaw is his usual brilliant self.

But because Gordon also committed three errors Sunday, there was a sense of urgency — for Hanley Ramirez to return to the lineup and for the 25-year-old to stop making the inexplicable miscues that have kept him buried at Triple-A for much of the past three seasons. (Gordon has played 158 games for the Albuquerque Isotopes since 2011 and 166 for the Dodgers).
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Daily Distractions: A game that broke the mold.

Nick Punto

Nick Punto went flying in this collision with Angels runner Erick Aybar last night. It was a wacky game. (Associated Press photo)

The Dodgers’ 7-6 win last night broke the mold in many ways. Lost amid the doubles, the Matt Kemp boos and the blown call at first base, here are some factoids that I couldn’t fit in my game story:

- The Dodgers’ comeback matched their largest of the season; they beat the Diamondbacks on May 22 after trailing by five.

- Previously, the Dodgers were 0-15 when allowing six runs or more.

- The ninth inning remains a virtual all-or-nothing proposition. Say what you want about Brandon League as closer, but the Dodgers are 20-1 when leading at the start of the ninth inning. They are 0-23 when trailing to start the ninth.

- Adrian Gonzalez‘s six errors lead all major-league first baseman. Next is the New York Mets’ Ike Davis, with four. Gonzalez, who has won three Gold Glove awards, had a busy day. He also failed to pick a ball out of the dirt and pulled his foot off the bag on a throw from catcher Ramon Hernandez in the first inning. Yet he kept his foot on the bag despite a poor throw from Luis Cruz in the ninth inning, completing a double play.

- The Dodgers’ six doubles were a season high.

More bullet points for a Tuesday morning:

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Hanley Ramirez runs bases, could return to Dodgers next week.

Hanley RamirezHanley Ramirez ran the bases at Dodger Stadium for the first time since straining his left hamstring on May 3 and is close to going out on a rehabilitation assignment.

“As we get through Anaheim, we’re talking about him playing some games the next few days,” Mattingly said.

Ramirez wrote on his Instagram account last week that he would be “coming soon” to Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

The rehab process has been a frustrating one for Ramirez, who was only able to play four games after recovering enough from a torn ligament in his right thumb before suffering the hamstring injury.

Ramirez said last week that he will announce his assignment in some capacity on Twitter. Assuming he plays Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it’s conceivable that Ramirez could be in a Dodger uniform next week when the team play a 10-game home stand against San Diego, Atlanta and Arizona.

Nick Punto is starting at shortstop Monday against the Angels following the demotion of Dee Gordon to Triple-A Albuquerque. Punto and Luis Cruz figure to get the lion’s share of the innings at shortstop until Ramirez returns.