The Los Angeles Dodgers walked into Citi Field on Wednesday evening swaggering after taking the series opener behind the unlikely relief duo of Heath Hembree and Jake Reed. If the Mets couldn’t stop that, then did the Dodgers really have anything to worry about in this experimental NLCS preview?
Then Jacob deGrom strode in, and the whole tenor of the room changed. Even Dodgers superstar Mookie Betts felt it, despite ripping a homer off the Mets’ ace to make Wednesday’s game at least a little sweaty.
The Dodgers will miss Max Scherzer in this three-game set, but they got deGrom’s very best in Game 2, as New York’s original ace went seven three-hit innings on 93 pitches (nearly his season high), striking out nine in the process. For most of the outing, the dominance was effortless; deGrom disposed of the Dodgers one at a time, leaving Edwin Diaz to breeze through the heart of the order one final time, trumpets blaring.
And while the Dodgers are dancing to an NL West title as the Mets try to fend off the Braves in a dogfight, that doesn’t mean there’s no reason for LA to be fearful when the clock resets.
Once everyone’s back at 0-0, the two best pitchers in a theoretical Dodgers-Mets series would be on the other side. And one of them might be the best ever, if you ask Betts. That’s worrisome.
Dodgers’ Mookie Betts paid homage to Jacob deGrom
Betts slammed his 32nd home run of the season off a 93.5 MPH slider. Let’s be honest. It’s not fair to expect anybody else to follow suit there.
The Dodgers haven’t risen to 90 wins faster than any other MLB team by accident. But without Walker Buehler and with an injured/regressing Clayton Kershaw (who isn’t exactly known for postseason dominance anyway?), the driving forces in their rotation aren’t the prototypical big names. It’s Julio Urías and the “Saved by Mark Prior Brigade” featuring Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney, Dustin May and maybe Tony Gonsolin.
There are a lot of intriguing names there. But none of them are deGrom, and none of them are Scherzer. None of them leave the Mookie Bettses of the world shaking their heads and paying tribute.
The Dodgers will have homefield advantage in a theoretical Mets battle, and there’s plenty that could happen along the way before these two sides ever clash. After all, the Mets haven’t exactly been imbued with great franchise luck and a clean path.
But Wednesday’s nail biter — a nail biter that never really felt all that close — laid the blueprint for a New York upset, especially as deGrom’s pitch count escalates with October in mind. Betts noticed.