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Yasiel Puig benched for NLDS Game 4

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Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

ST. LOUIS -- The Dodgers decided the best way to approach a must-win Game 4 of the NLDS - a literal must-win, not just talk - is to sacrifice offense and defense in center field. Yasiel Puig has been benched in favor of Andre Ethier against the Cardinals on Thursday afternoon.

It is the first lineup change made by manager Don Mattingly in the four games this series.

On some sense, this could be seen from a mile away, with the Dodgers scoring four total runs in the last two games and Puig striking out in eight of his last nine plate appearances, including seven in a row.

But that other at-bat for Puig was an opposite-field triple in the sixth inning, and he scored the team's only run.

"He's healthy," Mattingly said of Puig during his news conference on Tuesday. " We feel like this gives us the best chance to win today."

Mattingly repeated that last sentence multiple times, sounding like a man trying to convince himself of the move.

Even with those eight strikeouts in his last nine at-bats, Puig in the series is hitting .250/.357/.417 in the series.

Ethier hit .249/.322/.370 on the season in 130 games, and started just 10 times in the season's final 60 games, including twice in the final weekend after the Dodgers already clinched the division.

Ethier is 2-for-6 with a home run against Cardinals starter Shelby Miller, and that home run did come this season, one of four home runs hit by Ethier in 380 plate appearances.

His 1.167 OPS against Miller is almost as good as Puig's 1.667 OPS against Miller, 1-for-2 with a double and a walk. You know, if we're going to use small sample sizes.