| LOS ANGELES
LOS ANGELES The Los Angeles Dodgers were given a welcome boost ahead of Wednesday's Game Five against the St. Louis Cardinals when their hard-hitting shortstop Hanley Ramirez declared himself fit to play despite a broken left rib.
Ramirez, who suffered the injury after getting hit by a pitch in Game Two last week, struggled in Tuesday's Game Four at Dodgers Stadium and left in the middle of the sixth inning after striking out three times.
The Dodgers certainly need his offensive skills as they trail the Cardinals 3-1 in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series and face a must-win situation at home on Wednesday to keep their season alive.
"He wants to be a part of it. He thinks he can do something for us, so he's in there," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters a few hours before game time. "He knows what he's doing; and if he's capable of swinging the bat today, then he's our best option."
Asked whether Ramirez would have any extra padding on his ribs, Mattingly replied: "No adjustments as far as padding or anything like that. The padding is not really the issue.
"The padding is really there just if he falls on it or gets hit again; it would give him some protection. It's not really keeping him from hurting when he's swinging or something like that."
Mattingly said the pre-game mood in the Dodgers clubhouse was "fairly relaxed," even though the entire season was now on the line for the men in blue.
"Seems pretty good," he said. "They're still playing cards and dominos and same things are going on. These guys, they seem fairly relaxed.
"We know what we have ahead of us. I look back to the season, and we ask these guys to put pressure on themselves all the time, ask them to put pressure on themselves every day that you have to feel like you have to win today.
"So if you get into a situation like this, it really should be normal. We're here to win a game today. Obviously, we know if you don't win today, you go home. If you put that pressure on yourself daily, then this pressure is no different."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue)