The Los Angeles Dodgers earned themselves a three-day break after ousting Atlanta to win the National League division series, and they can use the time off to sort out some issues.
The team took Tuesday off to rest after closing out the Braves in four games with a dramatic 4-3 victory on Monday night. As the first club to advance from the division series, the Dodgers get the most time to reset their rotation, make bullpen decisions and heal nagging injuries to Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier.
They'll be awaiting their opponent in the NL championship series, the winner of Wednesday night's decisive Game 5 between Pittsburgh and St. Louis. Los Angeles would open at home against Pittsburgh or start at St. Louis.
The Dodgers were 4-2 against the Pirates this season and 4-3 against the Cardinals.
"All of my teammates are ready for whatever comes our way," rookie Yasiel Puig said through a translator. "We're very prepared for this."
Los Angeles is four wins from its first World Series appearance since 1988, when the Dodgers won their sixth title and fifth since leaving Brooklyn after the 1957 season.
"In spring training, our goal wasn't to get to the next round," center fielder Skip Schumaker said. "It was to win the World Series, so it's a nice first step in the right direction."
Los Angeles will open with Zack Greinke, who will be pitching on six days' rest following a 4-3 loss to Atlanta in Game 2. Clayton Kershaw, who started on three days' rest Monday for the first time in his major league career, will get regular rest before starting Game 2 against the Pirates or Cardinals.
Kershaw is savoring his first playoffs appearances since 2009.
"The last three years of not getting to go really taught me to embrace this opportunity. You never know when this is going to happen again," he said. "It's a one-month sprint, and I'm looking forward to the next couple games."
Rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu would be the likely starter in Game 3, although his poor performance against the Braves raised questions about his ability to handle playoff pressure. He allowed four runs in three innings, but the Dodgers were lucky Julio Teheran was even worse.
The three-day break gives the Dodgers ample time to sort out their bullpen, where Paco Rodriguez struggled in Game 3 against the Braves.
"It doesn't kick Paco out of any plans," manager Don Mattingly said. "Paco's been through a little stretch. Doesn't mean we lose confidence in him."
Los Angeles also could learn whether Ethier's left ankle has healed sufficiently to allow him to play the field. He was limited to pinch hitting against the Braves.
Much of the Dodgers' success during a 42-8 spurt from mid-June through August came without outfielders Matt Kemp and Ethier.
Kemp, missing the postseason because of a left ankle injury, has become the team's official cheerleader. He was scheduled for left shoulder surgery Tuesday.
Even without their bats, the Dodgers figure to have plenty of offense. Leadoff hitter Carl Crawford batted .353 in the division series. Ramirez hit .500 despite a bad back that has slowed him in the field, while Puig (.471) and Adrian Gonzalez (.333) have provided punch in the middle of the lineup.
"We've got some monsters on this team, and it took us a little while to get the chemistry going," Schumaker said. "After the first couple of months, everybody started trusting each other, and we took off from there. There's a reason why we took off."
Author: BETH HARRIS, AP Sports Writer