LOS ANGELES -- The statistical contributions from Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier on Wednesday may have been minimal, but their presence on the field meant far more to their Dodgers teammates than any box score could indicate.
For the third day in a row, both Ethier (microfracture in left leg) and Ramirez (hairline fracture in left rib) were in the starting lineup. Wednesday marked the first of those three games in which neither recorded a hit, but the Dodgers earned a hard-fought 6-4 victory nonetheless, sending the series back to St. Louis on Friday for a Game 6 (5:30 p.m. PT, TBS).
"It shows how bad they want to be out there, and it's a testament to how much they care about us as a team," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. "It's great that our medical staff is doing an awesome job, too, getting them healthy. Just their presence makes a difference."
Ramirez played only six innings Wednesday, and for the second game in a row, he was replaced by Nick Punto after going 0-for-3. Since being plunked in the ribs by a Joe Kelly fastball in Game 1, Ramirez has been arriving at the ballpark early for treatment.
The effects of the Game 1 hit-by-pitch have been obvious. After batting .500 in the NLDS against Atlanta, Ramirez has hit just .167 vs. St. Louis, and after Wednesday's game he declined to speak with reporters.
Ethier, meanwhile, played the entire game Wednesday. Although he continued to struggle at the plate, going 0-for-4, he did piece together a promising sixth-inning at-bat, working the count full before lining to short.
In the field, Ethier misplayed Carlos Beltran's third-inning rocket into a triple. The ball ricocheted off the top of the wall, but Ethier had backtracked too far to make any sort of play on the carom.
Once Ethier realized he was not going to make the play, he had to put on the brakes -- one of the job's toughest components for him, given the injury.
"It's tough, stopping," said Ethier, who has been battling the injury for more than a month. "But once you get caught up in the adrenaline, the emotion of the game, you don't really think about that stuff."
Ethier later made a nice play on a deep fly ball off the bat of Jon Jay in the fourth inning. He was quick to point out that his injury had no impact on how he backtracked on either fly ball -- a reassuring sign.
"You're not sure if it's going to beat you or not," Ethier said. "You've got to give it a shot and try to make a play on the ball."
After the game, Ethier said he was not, but he seemed to say so half-heartedly. When asked just how bad the lower left leg feels, he responded by saying "not much, I'm good to go."
Regardless of the severity of their injuries, Ethier and Ramirez will almost certainly benefit from Thursday's off-day.
There was not much asked of Ramirez defensively Wednesday. He touched the ball just once, fielding a one-hopper from David Freese before throwing low to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who made a nice scoop.
Whether the uncharacteristically poor throw was the result of the injury, only Ramirez knows. But one thing is certain: the rest of the Dodgers are willing to live with any negative effects, if it means two of their biggest bashers can be in the lineup.
"We want them out there," second baseman Mark Ellis said afterward. "We definitely want them out there. But at the same time, if they can't go, we feel like we can win with whoever is on the field. They're going to do whatever they can to be out there and play for us -- as they should at this time of year."