Throughout the 2018 regular season, the Los Angeles Dodgers lived and died by the home run. The 235 home runs accounted for the season, the second most in Major League Baseball, didn’t solve the Dodgers’ runners-in-scoring-position woes.
Among the eight playoff teams, the Dodgers are tied for the second worst batting average with RISP. Coincidentally, they are tied with the New York Yankees, who led MLB with 267 home runs.
The .253 average narrowly beats out the Milwaukie Brewers, who ranked last in RISP batting average. When the Dodgers hit a home run during the regular season, they went 77-44. When they didn’t, their record was 15-27.
Twenty percent of the Dodgers’ 804 runs scored came from a solo home run. Only 78 Dodger home runs were with the bases occupied. During game one of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves, five of the six runs of game came from a home run; two solo shots and a three-run homer.
Game two against the Braves was not different for the Dodgers and the long ball. Shortstop Manny Machado slugged a two-run homer to the left field pavilion in the bottom of the first. In the fifth inning, Yasmani Grandal sent a fastball on the outside corner to the right field seats.
While Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw have shutout the Braves’ inexperienced postseason hitters, the Dodgers’ lineups’ inability to score runners lingers in the shadows of home runs. Through the first two games, the Dodgers hit .182 with only 10 hits. While leaving 11 runners on base, only two men in scoring-position have crossed home plate.
Game three started with a hiccup for Walker Buehler when he walked Braves starting pitcher Sean Newcomb with the bases loaded. Then, Ronald Acuña followed with the first grand slam of the postseason.
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The Dodgers were down by five runs by the time the bottom third of the lineup had its first at-bat. Small ball proved worthy when Justin Turner pulled a single down the left field line, scoring Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor.
In the top of 5th inning, down by three runs, Taylor hit a fly ball to the left field bleachers with Grandal on base. The Braves’ lead disappeared in that same inning when Max Muncy tied the game with a home run.
But the inning after the Dodgers tied the game, Freddie Freeman hit a home run off Alex Wood to give the Braves the lead. It was a case of déjà vu for the Dodgers as nine runners were left stranded on the bases in situations that could either tie or win the game.
The postseason heightens the strengths and weaknesses for every team and player. If the Dodgers couldn’t address their situational hitting during the regular season, it’s unlikely they’ll address it in the postseason.
The reliance of the home run to win a game will make or break the Dodgers’ postseason run to a World Series title. The Dodgers face the Braves in game four of the NLDS at 1:30 p.m. today with Los Angeles up 2-1. The winner of this series will face the Brewers in game one of the NLCS starting on October 12th.