NLCS Game 3 preview: Hyun-jin Ryu, Dodgers offense needed

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

Ryu is 7-4 with a 2.61 in 16 starts at Dodger Stadium this season, including 14 quality starts.

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers head into Game 3 of the National League Championship Series looking to Hyun-Jin Ryu to get back on track. But as we've seen in the first two games of the series, getting good to great pitching isn't enough. The fact remains that if the Dodgers don't start hitting, and soon, they won't win.

All that stands in their way is Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, who has allowed one run in five of his six career postseason starts.

"He's got a number of pitches. He locates, changes speeds. It just makes it tough," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly on Sunday. "He seems like a guy that loves baseball. He's pitching some big games. He seems like he's always coming up big."

Nobody in baseball has pitched more innings than Wainwright this season - at 257... he has recorded eight more outs than Clayton Kershaw - and Wainwright is 21-9 with a 2.83 ERA, including the postseason. Opposing batters have hit .245/.276/.349 against him this season.

But that looks Ruthian compared to the .184/.262/.237 line by the Dodgers in the first two games, including 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position. They have scored two runs in two games, including none in the last 19 innings.

Having shortstop Hanley Ramirez and center fielder Andre Ethier back in the lineup would certainly help, as both are questionable to return in Game 3. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny in his string of cliches on Sunday said he's prepared for the Dodgers offense to improve.

"They've got a very strong team, very deep team," Matheny said. "We know that they can put anybody out there that can cause considerable damage every night."

Yasiel Puig was big in the NLDS but so far in the NLCS is 0-for-10 with six strikeouts, including the golden sombrero on Saturday. Getting production from him, though he's far from the only one slumping, would be a start.

"He had a good series against Atlanta. His thinking was good. He's been fairly patient in the sense of getting the good counts here. So he's just got to settle down, be himself and keep going," Mattingly said. "We've seen him at times be really patient when they're trying to run the ball at him inside. Then they're trying to throw the ball off the plate away. There are times he's patient and times he's not. It's kind of always step forward, step back, being consistent with it."

But even if the Dodgers are going to score runs, they will need better from Ryu than his NLDS Game 3 performance, with four runs and six hits allowed in just three innings. Ryu said he was nervous in his first MLB playoff start,

"Yeah, I was a bit nervous. Although, I do believe being completely nerve-free is also a bad thing as a competitor," Ryu said Sunday through an interpreter. "So I think it's finding a good balance between how anxious and how nervous I have to be tomorrow."

Ryu has allowed 19 runs in the first inning in his 31 starts this season. Keeping the Cardinals off the board early could be key to a long outing, not that Ryu is necessarily focusing on that.

"I believe that in the postseason pitching long into games is not as important as making quality pitches from the very beginning. I'm not going to focus too much on the length of my outing," Ryu said. "Truthfully, if I'm out there for five innings I'd be more than happy. But I'm going to focus making quality pitches from the first pitch."

Baby steps.

Game 3 info

Time: 5:07 p.m.

TV: TBS

MLB Gameday

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