When the winter gave way to spring it was, once again, time for Dodger baseball. The Boys in Blue were coming off heartbreak, a loss in game seven of the World Series that would not soon be forgotten. But, with heavy hearts, they would continue to play the game for the sake of one day returning to the opportunity they so recently squandered.
So they worked through the spring. The Dodgers continued to please the hopefuls, backing the claims that the Dodgers would be back again and maintain their pace as the best team in baseball. Matt Kemp, the Dodgers big offseason addition was hitting home runs like it easy during spring training and again, hope and optimism were plentiful throughout the organization.
The season started.
At first, it was no big deal; you lose one game and look forward to the next 161. The Dodgers were shutout on opening day, with Kershaw on the hill, and immediately, there was a question of what was to come.
The answer to the inquiry was not good. The lack of run support in the season opener would remain the theme over the next month and a half and by May 16, the Dodgers were 16-26, eight and a half games out of first place in the division.
Those first few weeks were a nightmare. Justin Turner missed the first 40 games of the season after getting drilled by a pitch in spring training, fracturing his left wrist. On April 30th, the Dodgers young mainstay, Corey Seager, would be placed on the DL only to find out his season would not include baseball, included Tommy John Surgery.
The list of problems continued to grow faster than the wins column did. Hyun-Jin Ryu was placed on the DL on May 3rd, Rich Hill missed the first month and a half of the season and Puig missed 11 days to start the month of May.
The hope from the spring faded quickly.
The Dodgers nose dive into oblivion was swift. Bright spots on the lineup existed, sure, but the stories were about Kenley Jansen who struggled to find his groove all year or Clayton Kershaw, who hit the shelf for a third straight season with another back injury. The Dodgers disadvantages were mounting and they were grasping for first place but kept missing their chances.
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But, like every good story, the tides would eventually turn. The struggles that followed the Dodgers into May pivoted into a National League-leading stretch where the Dodgers went 76-45.
Ross Stripling, Kenley Jansen and Matt Kemp represented the Dodgers at the All-Star game and Max Muncy, a rising star and the teams most valuable player in 2018 was the face of the Dodger power hitters in the home run derby. Muncy played the Derby the rest of the Dodgers mimicked the theme, finishing second in the Majors in total home runs. The 228 long balls was a new team record.
The postseason rolled back around and again, for a sixth straight season, the Dodgers were crowned victors of the division. They would now face a new test where there would be no room for mistakes.
Kershaw, Ryu and Rich Hill handled the Braves quickly suffering just one loss against a team they were bound to beat. The Brewers, the NL’s best team, would not be as easy.
Christian Yelich, Josh Hader and Jhoulys Chacin lead Milwaukee in an admirable battle that had many Dodger faithful worried but, again, LA persevered and prevailed. The win there marked their second straight trip to the World Series where they will face their biggest test, Boston.
But these Dodgers are built unlike anything we have seen before. They are not the best team on paper, they did not have the best record in the league but they do have heart. Heart that made them the sixth team ever to reach the World Series after having a stretch of games that saw them 10 or more games below .500. Heart that saw them prevail through injuries to their best players. And heart that lead the team to another division victory.
If you compare the numbers, Boston is the heavy favorite to win the Fall Classic. But, what no statistic can quantify is desire. And, after a season of heartbreak and a roster full of heart, the Dodgers have as good a shot as ever to do what this organization has not done in 30 years- win a world championship.