“Formidable, exciting, determined, and full of talent, the Dodgers are well placed to see themselves crowed kings of baseball in 2017.” – These were the words I used to describe the Dodgers back in July. More than three months have since passed and quite frankly, my opinion hasn’t changed.
As Dave Roberts’ men easily accounted for the Chicago Cubs tonight, moving to a formidable 3-0 National League Championship Series lead, they’ve found themselves on the brink of a World Series berth and set to face off against one of two weaker (well, let’s say ‘less complete’) teams from the American League.
The Dodgers’ 104-win season suffered a two-week skid between late-August and early-September where they lost 15 of 16 games, however in the eight weeks since, they’ve returned to their dominant ways. In the postseason they’re 6-0, sweeping the Diamondbacks in the National League Division Series and seemingly set to do likewise to the Cubs.
The daunting rotation, consisting of Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Yu Darvish, and Alex Wood, is as solid a quartet as you’ll find anywhere in the major leagues nowadays, and on the most part, they are pitching well. This dominance on the mound is further strengthened by a bullpen which has allowed just three earned runs in 19 2/3 innings of postseason relief. Kenley Jansen and Brandon Morrow have particularly been impressive, each appearing in all six postseason games and allowing just one earned run combined. Together, they’ve stuck out 17 in 14 1/3 innings.
Offensively, Chris Taylor continues to impress ever so quietly in what’s been a largely unheralded, yet remarkable season. Be it playing center field, left field, second base, third base, or shortstop, Taylor’s versatility and consistent production at the plate places him among the game’s most valuable players, despite the lack of fanfare he generates. Meanwhile, the media’s attention typically focuses on Justin Turner and Yasiel Puig who often provide the heroics in clutch situations. Perhaps the scariest thought of all is the improvement which can still come from young star Cody Bellinger who’s hitting just .231 cumulative this postseason… Just imagine if (when) he heats up.
Also impressive is the opportunities being seized by Roberts’ bench players – the lesser likes who simply come in and do the job required of them. Tonight it was veteran Andre Ethier who went 2-for-4 with an all-important solo home run in the top of the second to snatch momentum back off the Cubs who just prior, had grabbed an early lead via Kyle Schwarber’s solo shot. In games prior, Charlie Culberson has stepped up with some crucial hits, as have Logan Forsythe and Austin Barnes. Everyone is contributing and pulling in the right direction. While they may not be the most remarkable names on paper, they are playing like the most remarkable team.
It’s been almost 30 years since the Dodgers last appeared in the World Series, when Orel Hershiser and Kirk Gibson lead the team to an unexpected 4-1 series win over the highly favored Oakland Athletics who’d won 104 games in 1988. In the decades since, nine division titles and 11 postseason berths have pleased fans, yet the highs of 1988 have yet to be repeated. In 2017 though, it feels different. It feels right.