The Los Angeles Dodgers are currently down 0-2 in the NLCS to the Atlanta Braves. They have suffered two walk-off defeats by scores of 3-2 and 5-4 respectively, struggled to hit the ball and have been bogged down by a few questionable pitching decisions.
Despite the poor start, the frequent sentiment around the two-game deficit is that this isn’t unfamiliar territory and the Dodgers should be alright. That is a reference to last year’s NLCS, when Los Angeles fell behind 0-2 to Atlanta and were eventually down 1-3 before fighting back to win the series and ultimately advancing to win the World Series.
The problem with that belief is that the Dodgers are actually in unfamiliar territory.
Yes, they are down 0-2 in the NLCS to the same team from last year, but the circumstances are completely different.
Dodgers face new factors in NLCS comeback attempt
In 2020, the NLCS was played in Texas at Globe Life field as a part of a series of COVID-19 pandemic adjustments. In addition to playing at a neutral site, the seven-game series was played in front of 10,000 – 11,000 fans who didn’t necessarily have a strong connection to either team. Both teams also stayed at the same hotel and only had to travel to the ballpark and back.
Now in 2021, the postseason has returned to normal. That means traveling to each team’s actual home city in front of 40,000-plus screaming fans. With these factors in place, the Dodgers have a much tougher task at hand than last year — and can no longer close the series on their home turf, no matter how hot they get.
Last postseason, the players only had to hop on a quick ride back to their hotel rooms, making the baseball part of things much easier. They had more time to work on recovery and they didn’t have to worry about the effects of plane rides. The grind involved just locking in and playing baseball in front of a non-hostile crowd.
While Los Angeles is still an immensely talented team, these differences can’t be taken for granted. Both teams also played a full 162 games, unlike last year when they played 60 games in a condensed season. So with all the additional mileage on the Dodgers, they now have to travel back and forth from Los Angeles to Atlanta and actually play in front of an away crowd, all while trying to win four of the next five games.
This is not to mention…Walker Buehler and Julio Urias, set for Games 3 and 4, cannot also appear in hostile Games 5 and 6 for longer than an inning or so, maximum. Max Scherzer’s arm is dead. A bullpen game looms. Clayton Kershaw is not walking through that door.
If the Dodgers are going to accomplish the feat they did last postseason, they are going to have to dig much deeper. They are hoping for the same fate, but they will have to fight through much different circumstances to get there.