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Ethier sees payoff of staying prepared

Dodgers outfielder homers in rare start in NLCS Game 3
MLB.com @kengurnick

CHICAGO -- From every move that the manager has made all the way down to unexpected production from the 25th man, the Dodgers know exactly how they've steamrolled to within one win of the World Series.

"Everything is going right for us," closer Kenley Jansen said after a 6-1 win Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World.

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CHICAGO -- From every move that the manager has made all the way down to unexpected production from the 25th man, the Dodgers know exactly how they've steamrolled to within one win of the World Series.

"Everything is going right for us," closer Kenley Jansen said after a 6-1 win Tuesday night at Wrigley Field in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World.

View Full Game Coverage

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That's how Chris Taylor, a Minor Leaguer when the season started, leads the National League Championship Series in home runs, extra-base hits and total bases; how Brandon Morrow, a Minor Leaguer when the season started, has 3 2/3 hitless innings as the setup man for Jansen; how Andre Ethier, limited to eight starts during the regular season by a herniated disk, got his first start of the postseason in Game 3 and slugged a home run with the second pitch he saw.

In his 12th season with the club and final season of his contract, the 35-year-old Ethier never knows when the next start will be his last. The club is more likely to pay a $2.5 million buyout than pick up a $17.5 million option for 2018. But he's never been afraid of the moment, and his home run leading off the second inning was pivotal in halting whatever momentum the Cubs might have created by Kyle Schwarber's home run in the bottom of the first inning, as well as silencing the Wrigley Field crowd. It was the fifth career postseason homer for Ethier, who also singled in a sixth-inning rally.

"Very, very happy for him, and the game honors you," manager Dave Roberts said of Ethier. "And a guy like Andre, who has done it the right way for such a long time and repeatedly said he just wanted to be a part of this and to prepare every single day like he's going to play, and when that opportunity presented itself, he was ready. For him to come through and perform and pick us up the way he did is no surprise. It's just a credit to his professionalism."

Video: NLCS Gm3: Roberts on Ethier's clutch hit, preparation

Ethier was supposed to be strictly a pinch-hitter in this series, as he was in the NL Division Series presented by T-Mobile. But as Curtis Granderson's slump continued, Roberts finally pulled the trigger and penciled in Ethier for his first start since Sept. 28.

Dress for NLCS: Get Dodgers postseason gear

"Personally, it's just been a battle to get back on," Ethier said. "Last year was frustrating [missing most of it with a broken leg], but this was more, because I feel like I got myself back. Coming from an injury, and then another five-month break where you're not knowing what's going to happen. Then getting my name called tonight, it's a great thing.

"I think it was a long road just to get back to here and get on this roster. For a team this successful to have so many options and to be someone that can be singled out and go out there and be part of the nine, it's a big honor that Doc would, I guess, trust me, especially how things are going."

Video: NLCS Gm3: Ethier on what it meant to start in Game 3

Roberts made a handful of lineup changes against Cubs right-hander Kyle Hendricks. In addition to Ethier in left, he moved Taylor to shortstop (replacing Charlie Culberson, who was replacing the injured Corey Seager), he started Joc Pederson (double and a run) in center and Chase Utley at second base.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Andre Ethier