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Dodgers see opportunity as NLCS goes west

Down, 2-0, to Cardinals, Los Angeles feels urgency but not desperation

ST. LOUIS -- The Dodgers are well-acquainted with the adversity they currently face.

They overcame significant obstacles to win the National League West, becoming the fourth club to finish first after being in last place on July 1 or later. They're the fourth team since divisional play began in 1969 to capture a title after sinking at least 12 games under .500. And they were the third team in history to trail by 9 1/2 games before winning its division or league by 10 or more games.

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So they can cope with trailing St. Louis, 2-0, in the NL Championship Series.

Timing favors the Dodgers, since they'll play the next three games -- including Game 5 if it's necessary -- at home.

"Yeah, we're in a hole now, but we're not out of it yet," left-hander Clayton Kershaw said Saturday after his fruitless six-inning performance in the Dodgers' 1-0 loss to St. Louis. "We have three games at home to get right back in this thing. That's the plan."

Hitting in more timely fashion would help the Dodgers accomplish any plans they have to make this series a competitive one. They're batting .184 (14-for-76) overall, including .063 (1-for-16) with runners in scoring position.

"I don't think we're pressing. We're just not coming through," first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said. "We didn't create enough opportunities today. That's part of the job. To have opportunities, you have to create them."

A healthier roster would help. Shortstop Hanley Ramirez was scratched from Saturday's lineup with aching ribs and outfielder Andre Ethier remains limited with a lower left leg injury.

The Dodgers particularly feel the absence of Ramirez, who recorded a .638 slugging percentage this season.

"It's tough," Kershaw said. "Hanley's been our best player every time he's in the lineup. He's the best guy on the field. ... You can't dwell on it, but it definitely doesn't help our chances too much."

Ramirez vowed to play when the series resumes Monday.

"Even if I have something going on wrong, I'm just going to go on," he said. "This is our time. We can't shut down."

As if taking a cue from Ramirez, the mood in the Dodgers' clubhouse was subdued but not grim. Catcher A.J. Ellis pointed out that even the Dodgers' injuries, though significant, shouldn't decimate the lineup.

"We played so many games this year with guys that were banged up or not in the lineup," Ellis said. "That's the great thing about the team we've assembled. We have guys who can fill in."

Yet there was an undercurrent of urgency. At one end of the clubhouse, Ellis was saying that winning two of the three home games was the Dodgers' immediate NLCS goal. But in another corner of the room, when Gonzalez was asked if he believed the Dodgers had to sweep those games, he replied, "Absolutely."

That's partly why Adam Wainwright, St. Louis' formidable Game 3 starter, won't take anything for granted.

"The thing that I know is that team over there is very dangerous and they're going to want it," Wainwright said. "And they're going to be hungry when we get to L.A. They're going to want to go out there and give those L.A. fans a good show. So it's going to be very tough. There's no question about it. That team is very good from top to bottom, pitching and hitting. But so are we, and we're very confident we can go over there and get the job done. But ... we're not looking forward to the end of this series. We're going to look forward to Game 3."

Chris Haft is a reporter for Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat.

Los Angeles Dodgers