ST. LOUIS -- Although they are two wins away from reaching the World Series, the overriding storyline of the Dodgers for much of 2013 has been, and continues to be, how endless injuries could keep them from getting there.
Andre Ethier and Hanley Ramirez, but there was concern for them even heading into the National League Championship Series, before Ramirez had his rib cracked by a Joe Kelly fastball. And yet, the Dodgers soldier on.
"We obviously talk about it a little bit because we want to know if Hanley and Andre are playing, just like we want to know if anybody else is playing," said Clayton Kershaw, who starts Game 6 on Friday night (5:30 p.m. PT, TBS).
"But I think at the end of the day, we've got such a good group of guys that it doesn't really matter as far as mentality when we hit the field. Now, obviously, the talent of Andre and Hanley is something you can't really replace and we understand that. But at the same time, it doesn't do any good to think about what-ifs. We realize that. We understand that, and we're looking forward to hopefully having both those guys on the field."
General manager Ned Colletti hoarded players because so many of the ones he has are brittle. The Dodgers had 25 placements on the disabled list this year.
Of the eight starting pitchers with guaranteed salaries whom the Dodgers took to Spring Training, Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett were lost for the season after combining for one victory. Ted Lilly was released after going on the disabled list three times. Chris Capuano was on the DL twice, won a huge playoff game against the Braves out of the bullpen, then was left off the NLCS roster. Zack Greinke, the Game 5 winner, missed a month with a broken collarbone suffered in a brawl.
"Everybody said we had too many starting pitchers," said Colletti. "Then we didn't have enough."
Same thing with the starting outfielders. Once Yasiel Puig arrived, many believed the Dodgers had to trade either Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier or Carl Crawford. If they had, they wouldn't be in St. Louis on Friday.
Kemp, deserving of the MVP two years ago, had a second injury-marred season end with a broken foot and shoulder surgery. Ethier is scuffling through this series with a microfracture of his lower left leg. The broken rib is the fourth serious injury of the season for Ramirez after surgery for a torn thumb ligament, a hamstring strain and an inflamed sciatic nerve.
Then there were assorted injuries requiring DL stints for Crawford, A.J. Ellis, Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston, Scott Elbert, Scott Van Slyke, Stephen Fife, Shawn Tolleson and Jose Dominguez.
Kershaw lauds connection with batterymate Ellis
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw affirmed that his rapport with catcher A.J. Ellis enhances his effectiveness.
Kershaw has recorded a 2.05 ERA in 64 regular-season starts with Ellis, eclipsing the left-hander's overall career ERA of 2.60. Opponents have hit .200 off Kershaw when he works with Ellis, slightly better than his lifetime opponents' average of .211.
"A.J.'s huge," Kershaw said Thursday on a conference call with reporters. "Not only are A.J. and I pretty good buddies off the field, obviously, but on the field I have a lot of trust in him and what he calls. I know he's done probably more homework than anybody, other than [pitching coach Rick] Honeycutt."
Said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, "It seems like they've been friends for a while, and I think that always helps. ... I think all of our pitchers have a great deal of respect for A.J. I know [Cardinals catcher] Yadier [Molina] gets a lot of attention, and he should. But we love our guy."
Dodgers pick up Baxter off waivers from Mets
ST. LOUIS -- The Dodgers claimed outfielder Mike Baxter from the Mets on Thursday and designated outfielder Alex Castellanos for assignment.
Baxter, 28, is a left-handed hitter who played in 74 games with the Mets this year, hitting .189. Like Castellanos, he is a corner outfielder. He was a fourth-round Draft pick of the Padres in 2005 and was claimed off waivers by the Mets in 2011.
Castellanos, 27, is a right-handed hitter who played eight games for the Dodgers this year, hitting .167. He was acquired by the Cardinals in the Rafael Furcal trade in 2011.
Mattingly considering change in batting order
ST. LOUIS -- Despite four home runs for the Dodgers in Game 5, manager Don Mattingly hinted at a change in the batting order for Friday's Game 6.
Mattingly was asked if he was concerned that with left-handed hitters Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier batting fourth and fifth, his offense would be vulnerable in the late innings against left-handed relievers Randy Choate and Kevin Siegrist.
"Yeah, we've talked about it a little bit," Mattingly said. "I've looked at a couple different ways to do that. The one thing I've liked about it is that we've seen they've pitched to Adrian. When we have Yasiel [Puig] back there with the right- handers, they were going straight to Yasiel and kind of doing that.
"Since we've put Andre back there, we've seen [Adam] Wainwright pitch to him. Andre has pretty good numbers off him. It seems like they have a little bit more fear right now of Andre with their righties than they do of Yasiel. So really that was a move more to protect Adrian. But there is possibly a way to do it, still protecting Adrian. We're talking about something a little bit different."
Among the options are to drop the ailing Hanley Ramirez out of the No. 3 spot and move up Puig or A.J. Ellis.
World Series tickets on sale online Saturday
ST. LOUIS -- The Dodgers will hold an online public sale of World Series tickets for Games 3, 4 and 5 on Saturday at 10 a.m. PT.
Twitter followers of @Dodgers will have an exclusive on-sale period of 9:45 until 9:59 a.m. to purchase their World Series tickets before the general public sale begins on Dodgers.com.
Fans will be limited to four tickets for each game at Dodger Stadium. If the Dodgers advance to the World Series, they will host Game 3 on Saturday, Oct. 26, Game 4 on Sunday, Oct. 27, and Game 5 (if necessary) on Monday, Oct. 28. Times of the games will be announced.
The Dodger Stadium box office will not be open on Saturday.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Haft-Baked Ideas, and follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.