A day removed from their emotional elimination, it’s time to look at what went wrong in the series for the Dodgers.
A disclaimer, firstly. For some reason, I’m not upset that the Dodgers were eliminated. It makes sense to me. I had been mentally preparing for them to be eliminated since they started Clayton Kershaw in game four of the NLDS. I thought that would get them to game five, and that they would lose that game five. Then they won a date with baseball’s best team. Again, I was pretty mentally prepared for a series loss.
The Dodgers lost game one, which wasn’t much of a shock. Kenta Maeda against Jon Lester seemed like a mismatch, no matter how much I like Maeda. However, despite an 8-4 loss, the Dodgers got my hopes up with that game. They hit the ball hard against a lefty and were tied in the eighth inning, before a risky move by Dave Roberts backfired. That did give me hope, stupid, stupid hope.
That hope was exacerbated by a Kershaw/Kyle Hendricks pitchers’ duel in game two. The Dodgers got the big hit they needed and stole home field. Hope was growing, and it was at “holy &*(#@, these dummies might pull this off” after a game three victory behind Rich Hill.
The moral of the story is never believe and never get your hopes up. If the Dodgers did what they were supposed to and just got massively outplayed by the Cubs, it would be done and over with. I’ve been saying that the Dodgers are a very good team, and they are. In the postseason, anything can happen. But logically, the Cubs were a far superior team and should have won the series.
What Went Wrong?
The Dodgers won two of the first three games of the series. Then, they lost the next three. Something had to have happened for the series to turn so drastically. The easy answer is that Bill Plaschke said the Dodgers could do this in a column. Since then, they lost three straight. However, something on the field probably cost them a World Series trip
Momentum is a silly concept, as it can change in a heartbeat. I believe in players being hot and cold, but as a whole, momentum doesn’t do much for me. There were definitely a few plays that really concerned me and seemed to shift the tides.
The first came in the second inning of game four. Adrian Gonzalez tried scoring from second, which is generally a bad idea. He was called out on the field, and the play was challenged. The call was upheld (not confirmed) on review, meaning that it was inconclusive. It seemed conclusive enough to everyone outside of the review office in New York, as even some of the umps reportedly thought he was safe.
On the scoreboard, that one run didn’t mean a whole lot. The Cubs won that game 10-2, so if you take it at face, the run would have made it a 10-3 loss. However, at the time neither team had scored. The team that scored first won every game in the NLCS, so who knows how that safe call would have shifted that game.
Another key moment came in the fourth inning of that game four. To that point, Julio Urias had yet to allow a hit. Ben Zobrist led off the fourth and dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single. Then, a bloop single. That put Urias in trouble, and he started missing pitches. Three batters later, it was a 4-0 game and the game seemed just about over.
Urias and Pedro Baez combined to bring the Cub bats to life. Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell had combined to reach base once in the series prior to that fourth inning. After their homers in game four, they combined to go 11-for-22 for the rest of the series. They got going, while the Dodgers offense floundered.
The Dodgers offense had shown its hand in the regular season. They have weeks where they could light up Nolan Ryan. They have weeks where they could get shut down by Jeff Suppan. Bet you didn’t come to this site to get a Jeff Suppan name drop.
2016: Success or Failure?
In the common sense of the word, 2016 was a failure. Every team has the goal of winning the World Series, and for 29 teams, the season will be a failure.
That’s not to say the Dodgers didn’t accomplish anything. They won the NL West for the fourth straight year for the first time ever. Before last year, they had never even done that three straight times. Division titles are quite a bit more controllable than playoff success, and despite placing the most players on the DL and setting all sorts of awful injury-related records, only five teams won more games than the Dodgers this season.
2016 was a success as the Dodgers are in a fine position for the now and for the long term. The offseason promises to be interesting, as there’s a chance the Dodgers lose two key pieces with no clear replacements. They have a deep farm system, deep financial pockets and are growing closer to getting some of their worse contracts off the books. Despite another postseason exit, it’s an exciting time to be a Dodger fan.