Four games left? Tell that to the fans. On the night of Game 5 in the NLCS, fireworks could be heard by the many drivers stuck in Los Angeles traffic. The city, draped in blue. Their team has delivered on promises and expectations that have built up over the years. 29 years – an entire generation will see the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series for the first time.
As we wait for the results of the ALCS to determine who the Dodgers will face next, there is a moment to reflect on the Dodgers’ season to this point. In a post-game interview, manager Dave Roberts was asked what makes this Dodgers team so special. Roberts replied, “The first thing that comes to mind is Clayton [Kershaw].”
The long-time staple of Dodgers pitching rotation, Clayton Kershaw is definitely one of the big-time assets in baseball. He also parallels the team’s post-season frustrations, despite repeated success in the regular season. Kershaw boasts eight all-star selections, three Cy Young awards, and earned MVP honors in 2014 as a starting pitcher. Few if any have come close to Kershaw’s dominance. Finally, Kershaw can say he has gotten over the hump; Kershaw and the Dodgers are one more series win away from a championship.
Baseball may be a game that highlights its superstars, but for the boys in blue, the 2017 season represents the team’s ability to step past depending on the big names to step up. Many key players for the Dodgers, including Kershaw himself, missed time due to injuries. It would have been so easy to give in, to hide behind the excuse of an ailing roster. Nonetheless, the team seemed to have no end to the number of players who contributed during the absences of teammates.
Alex Wood, Chris Taylor, and Brandon Morrow have been huge contributors. Curtis Granderson, despite the poor showing in the NLCS, played a big role in the regular season after being acquired from the Mets. In recent years, the final games in October have boiled down to the teams that have sported fuller, deeper rosters. Not teams with one or two superstars. Not teams that can pitch or hit, but cannot do both. The Dodgers have that complete roster, poised to strike from top to bottom of their lineup or rotation.
Of course, there is also the campaign compiled by rookie Cody Bellinger, which took the entire league by surprise. Bellinger is now the presumable front-runner for the National League Rookie of the Year, and some around the sport are even giving him votes for the MVP award. Even though the award only reflects regular season production, the rookie phenom has continued his strong performance well into the postseason, and is poised to cap off an impressive campaign.
There is a feeling floating around in Los Angeles. Everybody knows that coming up short now is not acceptable. A World Series appearance would mean a lot less than a World Series win. For a team that seemed poised to compete for the regular season wins record before going on an 11-game losing streak late in the season, anything less than a championship would be a disappointment. For the team that has won five consecutive division titles, settling is not an option.
The championship trophy for Los Angeles has an air like the 2016 Chicago Cubs’ postseason run; there is an air destiny. This is the Dodgers’ series to lose. It is tough to argue with that, after they pushed around their competition in both the Division and Championship series. Since the postseason kicked off, the Dodgers have lost only one game. Meanwhile, they have averaged 5.75 runs scored per game. Their bullpen has backed up the starting pitchers by allowing just three runs over 28 2/3 innings of postseason play, including a postseason record of 23 consecutive scoreless innings. That’s good for a 0.94 ERA and a .125 batting average against.
Dave Roberts has proven capable of maximizing the talent on his roster. Whether they play the New York Yankees or Houston Astros, they are set to host for Game 1 on Tuesday, October 24th. As the winningest team in baseball, they are guaranteed home field advantage, which means the first scheduled for 5:09 pm PST will be at Dodgers Stadium. Everything boils down to one last series – the series long-awaited by the citizens of L.A., as well as the team. Everyone is all in for 2017.
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