The Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2021 season ended without a repeat World Series title after they lost the NLCS to the Atlanta Braves. They couldn’t stage another 3-1 comeback this time around and this series was, in fact, never close.
Once the confetti dropped for the Braves after Game 6, the Dodgers had more primetime players on their bench than on the field as injuries piled up. Justin Turner, Max Muncy, Clayton Kershaw and Joe Kelly were out. Steven Souza Jr. was tasked with one of the most important at-bats of the 2021 season.
Despite the heavy toll exacted by the injuries, the Dodgers lost to the better team, and whether it was the wrong pitching choices or bad at-bats, the numbers go to show that Atlanta deserved this one and it wasn’t particularly close.
Going into the NLCS it was perceived that the Dodgers with Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urias had the best starting staff. All three were considered Cy Young award candidates and had been effective in the NLDS win over the San Francisco Giants.
But in this series, the bottom fell out and the three starters were as effective as a paper umbrella in a rainstorm. Over four starts and one egregiously bad relief appearance, the trio combined for just 18 innings and gave up 15 earned runs, good for a 7.50 ERA. Urias was the only pitcher to go five innings in a start, and, likely due to fatigue, Buehler and Scherzer never saw the fifth inning.
Without effective starting pitching, there was no chance the Dodgers would be moving on to the World Series, let alone staging a 3-1 comeback in the NLCS.
Mookie Betts, Coerey Seager, and Trea Turner were slated at the top of the lineup in every game of the NLCS. Suffice it to say that, as a group, the three hitters were a bigger liability than the bottom of the lineup. They collectively batted .194.
The trio drove in just six runs, neither Betts or Turner hit a home run, and Seager did not drive in a run after Game 3. Seager, who a year ago smashed Braves pitching to the tune of five home runs and 11 RBI, hit just .167, striking out nine times and cost the team with some questionable defensive plays/efforts.
Needing an all-out effort to stave off elimination Betts, Seager, and Turner went 0-11 in Game 6, which was a microcosm of their terrible combined efforts for most of postseason, in fact. Only Betts’ NLDS performance stands out as worthwhile. Without their best slugger in Muncy, the Dodgers needed their big hitters to step up. But they just didn’t.
Eddie Rosario, folks! That was his slash line in this series. The Dodgers pitching let him get on base in 60% of his at-bats, which included three homers and nine RBI. Rosario tied a league championship series record with 14 hits. Nobody was effective enough to keep him off the bases for multiple plate appearances, and in Game 6 he hit the game-winning three-run homer in the fourth inning. Essentially, the Dodgers turned a .259 hitter into Babe Ruth. They held everyone else in check and somehow continued to give Rosario pitches over the plate.
The Dodgers front office no doubt has already turned the page, and the heavy lifting will be done on re-tooling a team that went to three World Series in five years and ended a 32-year title drought. What ever happens, it’s likely the team that walked off Truist Park in Atlanta won’t be the same in Spring Training. Some notable free agents include Scherzer, Kershaw, Seager, Chris Taylor and Kenley Jansen.