Dodgers ready for fight to stay alive in NLCS
Greinke, Kershaw, Ryu in line for starts with club down 3-1 vs. Cardinals
LOS ANGELES -- For all of the times the Dodgers have been counted out this season, they have yet to face a situation like this.
For the first time in 2013, the Dodgers find themselves on the brink of elimination, heading into Wednesday afternoon's do-or-die Game 5 in the National League Championship Series against St. Louis at 4 p.m. ET on TBS.
Of course, the Dodgers were counted out a time or two during during the regular season, during their improbable run to the NL West crown. On June 21, they sat 9 1/2 games out of first place and 12 games below .500 -- a mark they wouldn't pass for good until after the All-Star break.
"Being last place in the end of June, it seemed like we were completely out of it," first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. "Then we turn it around and make a historic comeback. We can win seven [more] games."
Not all three-games-to-one deficits are created equal. No team would ever fancy itself sitting on the brink of elimination needing three victories. But the Dodgers will be doing so with their top three arms -- Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu -- slated to pitch.
As Gonzalez was quick to point out, the Dodgers have posted winning streaks of at least three games on 11 different occasions this season.
"We're a group that's going to fight to the end," Gonzalez said. "We're fully confident with Greinke and Kersh and then Ryu. We've put up a lot better than a three-game winning streak before."
Of course, the Dodgers would also need to spit in the face of baseball history to pull off their comeback. Of the 81 teams to lead a series, 3-1, only 11 have ended up on the losing end -- including the 2012 Cardinals.
That's a fact outfielder Skip Schumaker knows well. The Dodgers' utility man spent last October with St. Louis, which dropped three straight to the Giants in the NLCS, mustering just one run in the process.
"We lost -- hopefully that's going to be a common theme over there," Schumaker said on Tuesday night. "It's going to be battle. There's a reason why they're here again. That's a really solid team, but we've got our horses lined up. If we're going to lose, we've got our best guys going."
The entire Dodgers clubhouse seemed to take some solace in the fact Greinke -- arguably the best pitcher in baseball in the second half -- and Kershaw -- arguably the best pitcher in baseball, period -- will get the ball for Games 5 and 6.
Should the series reach a seventh and deciding game, the pressure-free Dodgers would trot out Ryu, who tossed seven scoreless frames in his Game 3 victory.
"The best thought I have is, I've got one of the best pitchers in baseball pitching tomorrow," manager Don Mattingly said. "If we come out here and play well tomorrow and get a win, I've probably got the best pitcher in baseball pitching the next day.
Left fielder Carl Crawford was quick to point out that there's no reason to look to the possibility of a Game 7 on Saturday night. The Dodgers are facing what amounts to a Game 7 of their own in less than 24 hours.
"We hate to look ahead," Crawford said. "We've got a game to take care of tomorrow, and then it's one game at a time after that."
Recent history doesn't bode well for the Dodgers. Last year's Giants are the only club since 2007 to come back from a three-games-to-one deficit. In that same time frame, 10 other clubs have been down, 3-1, and only the 2008 Red Sox managed to force a Game 7, which they lost to Crawford's Rays.
"You have a pretty good handle on things if you're up 3-1," Schumaker said. "We were pretty confident over there. ... We liked where we were at. It didn't happen for us."
Schumaker then quickly turned his attention to the Dodgers' current predicament, putting the past in the past.
"We need to win," he said. "Obviously it's a must win tomorrow or we go home. That's just the bottom line. But when you've got Greinke and Kershaw and Game 7 with Ryu, this is our best chance to win it."
Schumaker then paused for a second, allowing for some reflection on the Dodgers' current situation.
"Our only chance, also," he added.