ST. LOUIS — As the Dodgers' dreams of a World Series title turned into something that would require a miracle to be realized, all Hanley Ramirez could do was watch.
Clayton Kershaw was pitching a masterpiece Saturday, but Ramirez couldn't help him. The Dodgers' hitters were facing a dominant rookie right-hander in Michael Wacha, but Ramirez couldn't step into the batter's box for any of them.
Ramirez was unable to swing a bat, much less play, as the Dodgers dropped a 1-0 decision to the St. Louis Cardinals that increased their deficit to two games to none in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
Ramirez was living out what felt like a scene from Dante's Purgatory: In the playoffs for the first time in his career, a bruised rib cage sustained the night before reduced him to a bystander for the most important game of the season.
"It was hard, really hard," Ramirez said. "You're on the bench, knowing that your team needs you out there, it's not easy."
Ramirez, who was struck by a mid-90s fastball in Game 1, might have to relieve the nightmare in the coming week. Though he said he was 100% certain he would return to the lineup Monday for Game 3, he acknowledged he was concerned he could have a fractured rib.
The shortstop had an X-ray Saturday, and the results were negative. He is scheduled to undergo a CT scan Sunday in Los Angeles.
Ramirez thought he would play Saturday until he tried to hit off a tee.
"I wasn't able to do it," Ramirez said. "It was really painful."
The Dodgers had trouble scoring runs and winning games while Ramirez was sidelined early in the season. Predictably, they reverted to their form from those days.
A day after losing a game in which Zack Greinke limited the Cardinals to two runs over eight innings, the Dodgers wasted an equally, if not more, dominant performance by Kershaw, who was charged with only one unearned run and two hits over six innings. He had escaped in the first inning after a leadoff triple by Matt Carpenter.
The Dodgers were hitless in their six at-bats with runners in scoring position. They left six men on base.
"Two great starts and nothing to show for it because we can't come through as an offense," Adrian Gonzalez said.
The Dodgers had little margin for error, and catcher A.J. Ellis made a crucial mistake in the fifth inning, as his passed ball allowed David Freese to reach third base and later score on a sacrifice fly by Jon Jay.
"It was a ball right down the middle," Ellis said. "Just missed it."
The Dodgers had a chance to tie the score in the sixth inning, which Kershaw led off with a single to left field. That was followed by an infield hit by Carl Crawford, which led to a throwing error by second baseman Matt Carpenter. Suddenly, the Dodgers had men on second and third with no outs.
Mark Ellis popped up to second base. "I got exactly what I was looking for and popped it up," he said.
Wacha intentionally walked Gonzalez to load the bases, then struck out a slumping Puig and an overmatched Juan Uribe to get out of the inning.
The sequence illustrated Gonzalez and Ramirez's co-dependence.
After Gonzalez was replaced by a pinch-hitter in Game 1, Ramirez was intentionally walked twice with runners in scoring position. Now, with Ramirez out of the lineup, Gonzalez was being walked.
The Dodgers' offensive ineptitude forced Manager Don Mattingly to pinch-hit for Kershaw in the seventh inning with two outs and a man on first base. Kershaw's pitch count was only 72.
With Michael Young at the plate, left-hander Kevin Siegrist threw a pair of wild pitches that allowed Nick Punto to reach third base. But Young flied out to right field.
"I always want to stay in the game, but I understand where Donnie's coming from," Kershaw said.
Gonzalez was visibly frustrated.
"The frustrating part is that it was our offense that caused him to get taken out," he said. "He might've been able to throw a complete game. Those are the kind of starts you can't waste."
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