BILL PLASCHKE

Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez has ears ringing in the NLCS

The usually low-key Dodgers first baseman says he's on a joy ride, but the Cardinals seem vexed by 'Mickey Mouse' ears gesture after the first of his two homers in Game 5 NLCS win.

The ball soared high into the right-field pavilion as the bat sailed high above foul territory, the ball flying, the bat flipping, Adrian Gonzalez preening.

Yes, he was going to pimp his prize home run. He swung. He stopped. He stared. He jogged. And then, when he had finally rounded the bases and approached his joyous dugout after giving the Dodgers the lead Wednesday, he flapped his hands on the side of his batting helmet as if they were Mickey Mouse ears.

It was silly. It was unseemly. It was a clear taunt of the St. Louis Cardinals, who had earlier charged that Gonzalez's celebratory gestures were "Mickey Mouse."

It's not who the Dodgers want to be. But, face it, at this point, they can't really worry about who they are, as long as they are still alive, and thus they are happily pimping their way to St. Louis after their emotional 6-4 victory in a last-gasp Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.

On a day when everyone involved with the Dodgers left everything on the field — from Will Ferrell announcing the starting lineups to Hanley Ramirez angrily stripping off most of his pads near home plate after being called out on strikes — Gonzalez's schoolboy strut was just another emotional cornerstone.

"We don't want to go home, we want to keep playing," said Mark Ellis in the clubhouse later, shaking his head. "We want it, we want it bad, and sometimes we want it so bad, we do things out of character."

For Gonzalez, the last couple of weeks have been not only out of character, but out of body, as the quiet first baseman has energized teammates and enraged opponents with explosion gestures, alleged trash talk and now going all Disney on them.

Before this postseason, he was the mildest of teammates, an accomplished veteran who has been criticized for avoiding the role of clubhouse leader. But in filling the void left by the injured Ramirez, he is now not only the Dodgers' leading NLCS hitter, but a big inspirational reason they have closed the best-of-seven series gap to three games to two with ace Clayton Kershaw up next.

"He does it a lot differently than most of the guys; he's not quite the play-around near as much, he's more serious," said Manager Don Mattingly of Gonzalez's transformation. "It seems that he's kind of stepped it up here."

Gonzalez hasn't just stepped, he's stomped. After Zack Greinke escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning Wednesday, Gonzalez began the Dodgers' attack with a leadoff single in a two-run second running. Then one inning later, he broke a 2-2 tie with the first of his two homers, although this is the only one anybody will remember.

"The Mickey Mouse ears, I was just having fun with the comment that was made earlier," he said. "Nothing against them or anything, it was just to have fun."

The Cardinals were clearly vexed by his display but also didn't want to ignite the embers of an earlier disagreement about the swaggering behavior of Gonzalez and teammate Yasiel Puig.

Said Yadier Molina: "They have the right to do whatever they want to."

Said Carlos Beltran, after a pause: "I think home runs, you've got to celebrate those."

Gonzalez obviously thought differently after homering again in the eighth, as he simply put his head down and ran. This time when he reached the dugout, the Mickey Mouse ears had disappeared.

"On the first home run, he probably got caught up in the moment a little bit," said catcher A.J. Ellis. "I'm happy he didn't do it the second time around the bases."

This being Gonzalez's first appearance so deep in the postseason, one could probably cut him some slack. Considering he has a .311 career postseason average, the Dodgers are willing to cut him plenty of slack.

"I think you guys are building it up more than anything," Gonzalez said to reporters about the first trot. "It's just having fun."

Gonzalez truly is having a blast, and he has become so indispensable that he made his biggest NLCS news in Game 1 when Mattingly replaced him in the eighth inning with a pinch-runner. If Gonzalez had stuck around, the Dodgers might have won that game in extra innings and been leading the series. Here's guessing he won't quietly leave a game again.

"If you're not having fun in the playoffs, then you don't deserve to be here," Gonzalez said. "Just enjoying every moment of it."

So he flashed the ears, and, for at least one more day in a season that refuses to die, Dodger Stadium became the happiest place on earth.

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

Twitter: @billplaschke

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