10/18 03:30 CDT Ethier 'honors the game.' For once, it returns the favor
Ethier 'honors the game.' For once, it returns the favor
By JIM LITKE
AP Sports Writer
Andre Ethier is no longer an everyday player with the deep and talented Los
Angeles Dodgers. But the 35-year-old outfielder retains the same leadership
role he enjoyed as a star because whether he's pinch-hitting or rehabbing from
an injury, he works just as hard as he ever did. Given a chance in Game 3 of
the NLCS with his first start this postseason, Ethier delivered a home run to
steal back the moment.CHICAGO (AP) --- Andre Ethier put his teammates on notice
before the first pitch of the playoffs: win the World Series or watch one of
the best seasons in Dodgers history go down as a bust.
Then he put his bat where his mouth was.
In his first start of the postseason, the longest-tenured Dodger drove a sinker
from Chicago Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks to right field for a home run,
stealing back the momentum early and tying the game. Los Angeles went on to a
6-1 victory Tuesday night and took a 3-0 lead in the NL Championship Series.
Considering Ethier's long and distinguished service with the organization,
coupled with the fact that the 35-year-old spent most of the last two seasons
recovering from injuries, it's hard to say who that big at-bat pleased most.
"It's been a battle to get back," Ethier said. "For a team this successful to
have so many options and go out there and be part of the nine, it's a big honor
that Doc (manager Dave Roberts) would trust me."
Ethier's leadership has manifested in different ways through the years, first
in a starring role as a slugging outfielder --- highlighted by back-to-back
All-Star selections in 2010-11 --- and later as an aging veteran ceding his
starting spot to make room for rising young star Yasiel Puig.
Because of the Dodgers' talent and depth, Ethier's status as an everyday player
has been an on-and-off proposition since 2015. But he's retained a presence on
the team out of proportion to his playing time for a variety of reasons: the
grace he showed helping groom some of his replacements; arriving early at the
ballpark to take photos and sign autographs for fans; and most especially,
perhaps, for showing the same preparation and work ethic in rehabbing injuries
the last two seasons that he did when he was at the top of his game.
"Very, very happy for him," Roberts said afterward. "The game honors you, and a
guy like Andre, who has done it the right way for such a long time ... 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," he added.
Ethier joined the organization in 2005 and has been with the club for five
trips to the NLCS. He's logged 45 career playoff games, tied with Steve Garvey
and Davey Lopes for second-most in Dodgers history. Bill Russell holds the team
record with 49 postseason games.
But behind that longevity is a still-smoldering desire to win it all, something
Los Angeles hasn't done since 1988. Ethier said last month, "No one is going to
remember in five years that this team won 104 games (in the regular season if
it) didn't win the World Series."
After he helped put the Dodgers one win from advancing to baseball's biggest
stage, Ethier had no problem reminding his teammates of the urgency they'll
still need to summon.
"I think that's something we try to pass on to some of the younger guys: 'Don't
take these opportunities for granted. ... You can't get complacent, and think
year after year, this is going to be a thing,'" he said.
"Maybe it will," Ethier added with a smile, "but history says there's going to
be an expiration date."
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