The Los Angeles Dodgers are one loss away from once again choking out of the playoffs, but this might be their most difficult one to swallow yet. Even with this "downgraded" squad from last season, losing to an inferior Arizona Diamondbacks team is unacceptable for a behemoth like LA.
Arizona only bests the Dodgers in the starting pitching department, and that only goes two arms deep. After that, it's a toss up. Otherwise, LA has the star power, offense, bullpen, playoff experience, and every other tangible edge you can imagine.
The Dodgers finished the year with 100 wins and went 11-5 in their final 16 games. They won the NL West by 16 games ... over the D-Backs, who ended the regular season with four straight losses and three total runs scored between them.
Somehow, like last year, the script has been abruptly flipped. The Diamondbacks are inexplicably hot right now, while the Dodgers are the coldest they've looked all year (despite this only being a two-game stretch). Then again, this aligns with LA's prominent playoff futility over the last decade or so.
While there's nothing wrong with criticizing this Dodgers team for once again failing to muster up the fortitude to put a lesser opponent in its place, you kind of lose the right to do that after you already declared this team 2023 World Series champs. That's exactly what the LA Times did.
LA Times quickly back to trashing Dodgers after declaring World Series win
Bill Plaschke wrote the first one, and Bill Plaschke wrote the second one. First, the Dodgers are undisputed winner and you should start prepping for the ticker tape parade. A few days later? You should've seen this expected collapse coming from a mile away. Have you been locked in a dungeon or something?
Fandom at its finest. Yes, we also predicted the Dodgers would sweep this series, but we also didn't anoint them as champions, nor are we relentlessly burying them after they lost the first two games of this series. Nor are we pretending like we knew this was coming all along. Are we surprised? Not really, but there's little sense in oscillating on both sides of the spectrum and falling victim to the satisfying highs and disheartening lows.
The Dodgers limped into these playoffs with a pitching problem and very much needed their offense to carry them. Unfortunately, the pitching has turned out to be the worst its been all year, and the offense very clearly isn't relentless enough to dig out of 6-0 and 3-0 deficits in the first inning of two straight playoff games. Most teams can't handle that type of pressure, so it's hard to place blame there when fans very well know how quickly postseason momentum shifts as a result of a singular occurrence.
Sadly, it all aligns with the narrative this season and of the last decade. The Dodgers pitching staff took hit after hit this year and it never really stopped. Why would it magically witness a turnaround when the games become the most important? The Dodgers once again fell victim to unforeseen postseason misfortune. Clayton Kershaw's worst loss of his career. The D-backs nearing a playoff series victory as the only team with a negative run differential over a team with a 200-plus run differential.
The trend of failure is one that isn't hard to believe, necessarily. Though the magnitude of each snowballing defeat elicits some feeling of shock, the LA Times ripping the Dodgers for exactly that (and claiming you should've seen it coming) after fast-forwarding to the team holding the Commissioner's Trophy just doesn't sit right, even if there's truth to Plaschke's words.