Down 2-0 in NLCS, Dodgers appear doomed

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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.

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.