On some level, the Dodgers seem to be having too much fun.
They flip their bats triumphantly after home runs. They make Mickey Mouse ears. Their manager insists his team is really “America’s team” and that the fans of St. Louis would love nothing more than to see a Game 7 in the National League Championship Series.
So we’ve got to ask: What’s going on here? Are the Dodgers trying to get into the Cardinals’ psyches and under their skin?
Could be. With Game 6 scheduled Friday night and the Dodgers down three games to two, they haven’t let the gravity of their situation get to them. On Wednesday, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said he was having the time of his life.
“If you’re not having fun in the playoffs, then you don’t deserve to be here,” he said.
The Cardinals? They’re white-knuckle serious, hell-bent on winning but well aware this thing isn’t over. They held a 3-1 advantage last season over the San Francisco Giants and let it slip away. They don’t want it to happen again.
So while the Dodgers celebrate their base hits and admire their soaring home runs – at least the four they hit in Wednesday’s 6-4 victory – the Cards try not to allow the playful Dodgers to get in their heads.
“It’s our job to evaluate ourselves on a daily basis to make sure we’re going about it the way we want to go about it,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said Thursday on a conference call. “It’s not our right and responsibility to dictate how other teams go about theirs.
“As far as getting under our guys’ skin, our guys want to compete. We’re not out there to make friends. We’re not out there to do anything except win. That’s our job.”
Certainly, the advantage is still theirs. They’re returning home for Game 6 and, if necessary, Game 7, where they won the first two games of the series. The Dodgers will still be at a disadvantage with ailing shortstop Hanley Ramirez far from healthy because of a hairline fracture in a rib on his left side.
Manager Don Mattingly said he expects Ramirez, who is hitless in his past two games, to play, but it won’t be confirmed until he’s on the field or at the plate.
“He’s got to be able to feel like he can do something,” Mattingly said. “Even though he hasn’t gotten any hits, he’s had a couple of swings that looked more like himself – obviously not 100 percent like himself, but better.
“He’s going to have to be honest with us. I don’t need a hero from the standpoint of, ‘I can go out there, but I know I’m not going to be able to do anything.’ We won’t play him like that.”
The Dodgers are lined up with ace Clayton Kershaw, who has a 0.47 ERA in the postseason, facing rookie Michael Wacha, who beat the Dodgers in Game 2 with 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball. In two postseason starts, one each against the Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates, Wacha has allowed one run in 14 innings.
Offensively, the Dodgers have outscored the Cardinals 13-12 and out-hit them .234 to .178.
If there were a statistic for good times, the Dodgers would be winning that one, too.
Adrian Gonzalez made Mickey Mouse ears after his first homer Wednesday, a reference to Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright saying Gonzalez was doing “Mickey Mouse stuff” in a previous game. The Dodgers loved it.
In a postgame interview, Mattingly said the Dodgers were America’s team, adding, “Everyone wants to see a seventh game. Probably even the fans in St. Louis would like to see a seventh game. So I figure everyone’s for us to win on Friday.”
Were they playing mind games with St. Louis?
“No,” Mattingly said, laughing. “We’re trying to win games. I think what you see from our guys is the kind of personality we have. We talk about wanting to have fun when we play, and we play the game the way you would play it in Little League. But then we get down to business.”
That’s where they are now — getting down to business. But having some fun doesn’t seem to hurt.