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Well, we can forget the almost-a-must-win game.  While this isn’t an elimination game it might as well be.  The fat lady is warming up, the nails are ready for the coffin and the Dodgers are facing Adam Wainwright in a game, yes, they must win.

Sure, the Dodgers can lose today and still potentially come back from a 3-0 deficit, but if you give the Cardinals four chances to beat you, odds are that they will, especially considering how well they’ve been pitching.


Hanley is going to play with a broken rib
Photo by SD Dirk, used under creative commons license.
So the Dodgers better hope that the offense can come alive.  Like every pitcher, even an ace such as Adam Wainwright, can have a bad day.  Fans in LA are hoping that today will be one of those days -- and then that it might happen again in a Game 7 if they can get there.

But things are looking grim for LA.  Yes, it’s probably humility that today’s Dodger starter Hyun-Jin Ryu said, "Truthfully, if I'm out there for five innings I'd be more than happy."  While that would be a big improvement over his last start, where he didn’t make it into the fourth inning, just getting through five innings won’t be much of an accomplishment if he can’t post zeros in at least most of those innings.

And he’s capable of it  He gave up four runs against the Braves in just three innings during the NLDS, but he had a lot of quality starts this season, including an outstanding one against the Cardinals back in August.  That day he limited the Cardinals to a single unearned run over seven innings, yielding no walks and just seven hits on the day.

Today he’ll have the advantage of pitching at home, a place where he posted a 2.32 ERA in the regular season.  But on paper that’s still a mismatch when going up against one of the best pitchers in the NL.

That means the offense will actually have to hit better than the .184 they’ve hit so far.  They’ll have to score more runs than the two they’ve managed so far as well.  

It could be a tall order.  Hanley Ramirez will be playing with a fractured rib and wearing a flak jacket. Andre Ethier may not be  able to play. And spark plug Yasiel Puig is finally hitting the rough patch that everyone assumes all rookies will face at some point, going 0 for 10 so far in this series.

Admittedly the Cardinals offense has been even more anemic than the Dodgers' thus far, but the Cardinals faced the Dodgers' best two pitchers and came away with two wins.  Those wins forgive the sins of offensive struggles.  But the Cards won’t be facing Kershaw or Greinke, and they probably will fare better in terms of quality swings.  If it translates to runs then the Dodgers might well be in deep trouble.

After all they do face Wainwright.  While Wainwright is human and therefore beatable, no team in baseball really wants to face Wainwright in a crucial game -- and today is the most crucial game of the Dodgers' 2013 season.