In Game 1, Hanley Ramirez took a Joe Kelly fastball to the side, fracturing two ribs, in his first at-bat of the NLCS. Due to the injury, he has missed Game 2, and been pulled out early of Game 3, 4, and 5.
Ramirez is hitting 2-12 since getting plunked, and winces with each swing he makes. In the infield, his already limited range has been affected too, and he is constantly doing little stretches to keep his side from going stiff.
This is not the same Ramirez that helped get Los Angeles into the playoffs. But, the Dodgers have been using him like nothing has changed. Sure, they might pull him in the seventh inning and bring in a defensive replacement, but is he providing value to the team in those first seven innings?
It is a completely unfair situation for Ramirez. He worked hard to be able to play for this team in the postseason and he does not want that opportunity taken away from him. This is not his call, though. Don Mattingly needs to decide if starting Ramirez is the best option for the club.
The team has backup shortstop Nick Punto ready to go, and he has proven himself as a valuable replacement for Ramirez over the season. Punto was the Dodgers go-to guy when Ramirez got injured this season, and in his last stint as the stand-in shortstop he hit .320/.424/.460.
He has not been used much this postseason (2-6 with a double and four strikeouts), but in his career against Cardinal pitching he is 9-28 with three doubles and three walks.
With the season on the line in Game 6 and 7 in St. Louis, the Dodgers must put out the best lineup they have in each game. But who do you choose between an injured, broken Ramirez, or a healthy, rested Punto?
At this point, it seems Ramirez would be more valuable in an important pinch-hit scenario rather than playing two-thirds of the game. Of course, there is nothing I would rather see than for him to go off tonight and prove this wrong, all while pushing the Dodgers into Game 7.