For the first time since 2013, the Los Angeles Dodgers have gotten past the Divisional Series.
Wow, Dave Roberts is a mad genius. The Los Angeles Dodgers finally secured their place in the NLCS to go one step further to the World Series. In perhaps the best divisional series in these playoffs, the Dodgers managed to scrap tooth and nail past the Nationals. Down 2 games to 1, LA rallied together the troops to pull off a new narrative, overcoming the obstacles against them. Now, they must face one of the most dominant teams in the history of our game. With the right managing decision, and the resiliency shown in the NLDS, the Dodgers can take home the pennant. However, before analyzing the NLCS, let’s see what exactly won them the NLDS.
How LA won the NLDS:
Dave Roberts perhaps just executed the most wacky, unorthodox managing October has seen. No other manager in baseball has brought their closer in the seventh inning, and then have their ace pitcher on one day’s rest close it out. No other manager has made the amount of pitching changes, double switches, pinch hits that Dave Roberts has. Some of his decisions seemed crazy, and that’s exactly what they were, but to win baseball games in October risks must be taken.
The Dodgers managed to scrap together three hard fought team victories to keep their season alive. Game one was all about the bullpen, throwing four scoreless innings. Roberts utilized his bullpen perfectly to dictate match ups. Game four was a whole different narrative. Los Angeles jumped out to a 5-2 lead heading into the seventh, and after Clayton Kershaw got in some trouble the bullpen couldn’t save him. The Dodgers, now tied 5-5, needed that big hit that was missing all series. As I like to call him, old man Chase Utley delivered a two out base hit that secured us the victory. Game five however was a whole new animal. In the best playoff baseball game I have ever witnessed (yes I’m biased) the Dodgers came back from a one run deficit, almost blew it, then secured an unorthodox victory.
The Nationals managed to outscore the Dodgers 24-19 in the NLDS. Despite that, Los Angeles made their runs count to secure the victory. Like previously stated, match-ups played a huge role in deciding the winning team. Take Carlos Ruiz for example, although they lost game three, Ruiz delivered huge twice against left handed pitching. I was one of the people ridiculing the Ruiz trade because I loved A.J Ellis, but Ellis couldn’t have done that. The match-ups were key.
How LA can win the NLCS:
The Cubs are scary good, let’s not ignore the fact that they are deemed “destined” to win it all. Most baseball analysts are already writing off the Dodgers in this series. We just fought to get bast the Nationals, the Cubs are rested and the Dodgers have been overworked. That can help the Dodgers though, all season long LA has found some way to win in one form or another. The key to beating Chicago, lies within our bullpen vs. theirs, and the Dodgers’ performance at Chavez Ravine.
I love match-ups more than the next guy, all I ever do is ramble about them. The Cubs starting pitchers, like it or not, dictate every match up. The Cubs have three incredible arms at the top of their rotation which is scary for Dodgers hitters. Although LA’s starting pitching is good, it isn’t as all around talented as the Cubs’. What hitters must do for LA is work the pitch count, get what you can, and get them out of the game. Los Angeles’ bullpen ranks third in WAR (Wins Above Replacement), first in ERA (Earned Run Average), and fourth in FIP (Field Independent Pitching). Compared to the Cubs ‘pen that ranks nineteenth, eighth, and fourteenth in the same categories, respectively. The Cubs don’t have a bad bullpen at all, but the Dodgers need to capitalize in the innings after the starters, and before Aroldis Chapman.
The Cubs owned the advantage in the regular season, winning four games to Los Angeles’ three. However, besides a 7-2 loss on June 2nd, every loss was within two runs. Los Angeles very well could have swept Chicago in Los Angeles. The Dodgers only loss in LA was in extra innings, in a game they lead in the ninth. The Cubs tied the game due to a passed ball from Kenley Jansen. Now, this was Carlos Ruiz’ first time ever catching Kenley in a game, so the cutter fooled him. The Cubs may have not scored that run if Ruiz wasn’t catching, therefore the Dodgers would have swept the Cubs. In order to win this series, Los Angeles needs to take all 3 games at Chavez Ravine, and just win one in Chicago.
Although the Cubs are scary good, the Dodgers hold a reasonable chance to defeat them. Personally, I believe that LA is the only team capable of stopping Chicago on their quest for their first world championship since 1908. This series, they must capitalize on every opportunity, take more risks, and bring the pennant home to Los Angeles.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.com