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Hanley heals Dodgers' lineup despite fractured rib

Star shortstop goes 2-for-4 with key RBI single in eighth inning

LOS ANGELES -- Fractured left rib be darned, Hanley Ramirez stood on first base smiling from ear to ear as he joined the raucous Dodger Stadium crowd in celebrating Carl Crawford's nifty eighth-inning slide into home plate.

Ramirez, who has been diagnosed with a hairline fracture in the eighth rib on his left side, had just driven in a pivotal insurance run in the Dodgers' 3-0 victory in Game 3 of the National League Championship series on Monday.

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So, how exactly did his ribs feel at that moment?

"I don't remember," a grinning Ramirez said following almost an hour of treatment after the game. "I was really happy. We scored another run."

That certainly bodes well for the Dodgers going forward. Their No. 3 hitter -- who is now hitting .455 this postseason with an absurd 1.492 OPS. -- didn't even give the injury a second thought during the game's biggest moment.

Ramirez went 2-for-4 on the night -- although each of his hits were little more than well-placed bloops -- and did everything that was asked of him defensively. He was removed before the ninth inning strictly as a precaution.

Technically, Ramirez remains a question mark for Tuesday's game 4 (5 p.m. PT on TBS), according to manager Don Mattingly. But that's not the way Ramirez sees it.

"I'm a gamer, and I'm going to die on the field," Ramirez said. "I'm going to try do the best I can every night to be out there and help this team win. I've got the support of my teammates, the front office, manager. That makes you even better and gives you a lot of confidence."

Ramirez arrived six hours before game time at Dodger Stadium for treatment that included plenty of ice, some pain killers and an acupuncture session. By the time he was finished receiving his postgame treatment, the clubhouse had emptied out almost entirely, save for the horde of reporters waiting at his locker.

Sure, it was a long day for Ramirez. But helping his club cut into the Cardinals' NLCS lead at 2-1 made it all worthwhile.

"When you don't feel good, and you've got something bothering you, any kind of move [is hard]," Ramirez said. "But, can't let those things get in your head. You've got to stay strong."

Ramirez's presence in the Dodgers' lineup is hard to overstate. Not only does he bring his immense offensive potential to the No. 3 spot, but his right-handed bat complements Adrian Gonzalez in the cleanup spot.

The Dodgers were held scoreless in Saturday's 1-0 loss in Game 2 without Ramirez, and facing Cardinals' ace Adam Wainwright in Game 3, Ramirez's presence almost seemed like a necessity. That presence may have extended further than his offensive value on Monday night.

"Anybody that goes out there and plays hurt and gives it their best effort makes us all step up, as well," Gonzalez said. "He's definitely the guy in our lineup that has shown time and time again that changes everything for us. So having him was big."

Ramirez's inclusion -- along with that of Andre Ethier who also missed Game 2 (sprained left ankle) -- certainly gave the crowd a jolt. During pregame introductions, Ramirez and Ethier were cheered louder than any other players.

"Everything," Ramirez said when asked what that moment meant to him. "It pumped you up and gets you ready. It gets you ready from the first inning, all the way. The crowd was unbelievable tonight."

Mattingly said he noticed the boost Ramirez offered the lineup.

"I think, emotionally, it's good that they're in the lineup," Mattingly said. "When you've got to go through Hanley, if he's swinging 80 percent, he's still pretty damn good."

Ramirez injured his ribs when he was hit with a Joe Kelly fastball in Game 1. He remained in the game, but was unable to play in Game 2. X-rays taken Saturday were negative, but a CT scan on Sunday revealed the fracture.

Ramirez, who wore a protective vest for Monday's game, wasn't going to let that fracture sideline him. He is, after all, in the midst of his first postseason and his best shot -- thus far -- at a World Series.

"That's why we're here," Ramirez said. "We're here for the team and the city, and we've got to give everything that we've got every day on the field."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Hanley Ramirez