ST. LOUIS -- Striving to remain resilient, Dodgers center fielder Andre Ethier said as Friday merged into Saturday, "I think the sun will rise tomorrow."
It almost did before Game 1 of the National League Championship Series ended, with Ethier and the Dodgers absorbing a 3-2, 13-inning loss that spanned four hours and 47 minutes.
Ethier was a central figure in the outcome, literally and figuratively. Hampered by an ailing lower left leg, Ethier started in center field for the first time since Sept. 13. He played virtually the entire game and departed only when Dodgers manager Don Mattingly engineered a double-switch to summon Kenley Jansen for the final fateful matchup in the 13th inning. Carlos Beltran quickly ended matters with his walk-off single that plated Daniel Descalso.
"Being out there that long, it felt better than I thought it would be," said Ethier, who went 1-for-5 with a walk before departing. "Whether it's five or six innings or 13, you have to figure out a way to get through it."
Asked about his chances of returning to the lineup for Saturday afternoon's Game 2 at 1 p.m. PT on TBS, Ethier was noncommittal. "Same thing I've been telling you guys," he said. "We'll figure it out tomorrow morning when I get here."
Ethier was involved in one of the game's most critical plays. He sped toward the right-center-field wall in pursuit of Beltran's third-inning drive off Zack Greinke and leaped for the ball, but Ethier couldn't quite come up with it. The ball caromed off the barrier for a two-run double.
"No excuses," said Ethier, who won the 2011 Rawlings Gold Glove for defensive excellence, though he played exclusively right field that year. "That's one where I happened to get to the wall the same time the ball was there. ... It hit off my glove. I hit the wall at the same time the ball did, and I didn't come up with it."
In fairness to Ethier, his simultaneous arrival at the wall with Beltran's drive made the play challenging, regardless of his physical condition. "If you call it a routine play, then I guess you can go out there and play for me," he good-naturedly said to a reporter.
Mattingly steadfastly defended Ethier. Asked if Ethier might have felt rusty as a result of not having started in the outfield for nearly a month, Mattingly said, "Usually when a guy jumps at a ball at the wall and runs into it at the same time, you don't really call that rust. If he catches it, it's a great play. I don't think you can find any fault with him not catching it."