Not even 24 hours into a seven-game series, the Dodgers’ World Series hopes are already on life support. By failing to secure either of the first two games with Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw on the mound, they’ve become huge long shots to defeat the Cardinals in the NLCS.
If there’s any reason for the Dodgers to take heart, it’s that the matchups haven’t dictated the series so far. The Dodgers figured to have the edges in the first two games, even with the series in St. Louis, because they had their big two going and the Cardinals were starting Joe Kelly and Michael Wacha. Obviously, it didn’t work out as they’d like. But they can psyche themselves up by claiming their own underdog status now, especially against Adam Wainwright in Game 3.
Unfortunately, the Dodgers now have to beat Wainwright once if they’re going to win the series. And Hyun-Jin Ryu didn’t appear up to that kind of task during a shaky NLDS start against the Braves. Rumored to be battling elbow and/or back problems, he gave up four runs in three innings in that one.
But Monday’s Game 3 will be practically a must-win game against a pitcher who is 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA and a 57/7 K/BB ratio in 48 2/3 career innings in the postseason. A victory will be even more improbable if Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers’ best hitter, can’t go after injuring his ribs on a HBP in Game 1 and missing Game 2. Ramirez’s absence played a huge role in Saturday’s 1-0 loss; he’s performed as well as anyone in the National League when healthy this season.
Without Ramirez, the Dodgers could well go down quietly from here. Yasiel Puig seems lost at the plate, Andre Ethier is limited and Game 4 starter Ricky Nolasco was a disaster at the end of the regular season. Things couldn’t possibly have broken better for the Cardinals.
The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser reports that Athletics’ right-hander Sonny Gray will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic after failing to meet the necessary criteria for insurance coverage. He missed 70 days on the disabled list with forearm tightness and a back strain in 2016.
According to Oakland GM David Forst, Major League Baseball tried to persuade the insurance carrier to waive the requirements for Gray to pitch for Team USA, but the request was ultimately refused. Without coverage, Gray will be unable to participate in the competition, though Forst adds that the 27-year-old is still in perfect health as Opening Day approaches and should benefit from a slower spring training schedule without the added commitment on his plate.
Injuries complicated a down year for Gray, who pitched to a career-worst 5.69 ERA, 3.2 BB/9 and 7.2 SO/9 rate through 117 innings in 2016. His 1.4 HR/9 and 17.8% HR/FB rates suggested that he felt the effects of the home run spike more than most, capping a disappointing follow-up to his All-Star campaign during 2015.
While Gray works up to a healthy and productive start to the 2017 season, the Athletics will still see two players on WBC rosters next month: right-handed reliever Santiago Casilla, who is scheduled to pitch for the Dominican Republic, and fellow righty John Axford, for Team Canada.
Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton is scheduled for another knee exam on Monday, according to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Hamilton left camp last week after feeling some pain in his left knee and received a PRP injection to alleviate the symptoms. Wilson notes that both Dr. Walt Lowe and Rangers’ assistant general manager Mike Daly noticed little improvement in the days following the injection.
More drastic measures could be necessary if the 35-year-old intends to return to the field this year. MLB.com’s TR Sullivan adds that the Rangers are considering arthroscopic surgery for Hamilton, which would set him back at least 4-6 weeks and eliminate any real chance of his making the Opening Day roster in April. Until they see the results of the surgery, however, the Rangers won’t rule out Hamilton’s potential return to the big leagues in 2017.
Hamilton is looking at his third major procedure since the end of the 2015 season. He missed all of the Rangers’ 2016 campaign after undergoing reconstructive knee surgery last spring and has not seen a full workload in the majors since his 2013 run with the Angels. Should he make a full recovery this season, he figures to see some time at first base/DH or the corner outfield.