Yes, the Dodgers’ Game 3 blowout win was extremely impressive, and may have flipped the series. But we absolutely do not know that yet!
Between Games 2 and 3 of the NLCS, Los Angeles Dodgers fans went from, “The sky is falling!” to, “Screw the sky, bring on the falling sky! We can survive anything!” in a snap.
And while there was plenty of reason to be cocky on display Wednesday, we must caution the fanbase, as well as the media that covers it, that nothing is decided yet. Even though the Dodgers have cinched this series tight, a tight series can still be lost.
After an 11-run first inning, though, platitudes ran rampant praising LA’s effort in getting off the mat and handing the ball to an excessively-rested Clayton Kershaw for Game 4, parlaying their ninth-inning momentum from Game 2 into an early burst, one of the extremely rare examples of momentum actually being real.
But amid the pomp and circumstance, heed Braves manager Brian Snitker’s warning. The Dodgers may actually have done him a favor by destroying his team as decisively as they did.
As Snitker said in the postgame, “We’re in better shape than if we’d grinded out a 7-5 loss.” And it doesn’t take much analysis to see the value in that.
Grant Dayton and Huascar Ynoa, for better or worse, were forced to bear the brunt of the team’s bullpen legwork. Shane Greene’s 1.1 brilliant innings were the only late innings soaked up by a legitimate member of this bullpen — Mark Melancon, Will Smith, Tyler Matzek and Chris Martin all got the seemingly-impossible “night off” in this seven-day gauntlet. Ignoring Kyle Wright’s unseemly 94.50 ERA (you just have to laugh), things went fairly well. If the Braves were going to drop Game 3, they might as well drop a laugher and manufacture a day of rest.
Plus, is Kershaw in Game 4 really the type of certainty Dodgers fans want to brashly bank on? He was scratched from his Game 2 start just two days ago, and is arguably more vulnerable than when he’s entered previous postseason starts. This man’s entire postseason narrative has been about how much we can trust him after exemplary regular seasons. And now that he’s injured, we suddenly trust him implicitly?
This type of thing has precedent; if you’d like to be scared (I mean, why would you?), look to the 2001 Mariners, who grabbed the momentum back from the Yankees by nearly the exact same score in Game 3, then failed to stay awake after “waking up” in full.
The Dodgers have a far better chance of winning this series on Thursday morning than they did on Wednesday. But acquiring three wins will take a fair amount of work, and the team had better hope that Kershaw feels as recharged as the bullpen on the other side does.