It happened again. Saturday night, the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series to advance to the 2018 World Series, winning their second consecutive NL Pennant. Throughout the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Dodgers have been a model of perseverance.
Last season, the Dodgers finished with the best record in Major League Baseball at 104-58 and advanced to the World Series to face-off against the Houston Astros. But the Dodgers ultimately lost the Fall Classic in seven games and watched the Astros celebrate in Dodger Stadium. In the offseason, the Dodgers were relatively quiet, outside of one bizarre trade. In what was perceived as a money swap, the Dodgers acquired Matt Kemp from the Atlanta Braves, but they ended up keeping the veteran outfielder. And Kemp panned out to be a focal point of manager Dave Roberts‘ offense this season, hitting .290 to go along with 21 home runs and 85 RBIs.
Outside of Kemp, the Dodgers were mostly the same team that they were in 2017. They had the same manager, core position players, bullpen, and, outside of Walker Buehler, the same starting rotation. But their road back to the Fall Classic was anything but a walk in the park.
The Dodgers began 2018 without star third baseman Justin Turner due to a wrist injury, and just weeks into the season they lost shortstop Corey Seager for the season to Tommy John surgery. The two infielders were vital in the Dodgers beginning the season 16-26, and some doubted whether they would be able to turn the corner and make the playoffs. The Arizona Diamondbacks were off to a hot start, the Colorado Rockies had a dangerous lineup, and the San Francisco Giants acquired Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen in the offseason.After injuries and a historically slow start plagued the @Dodgers early on this season, their NL pennant win proved that they're a team of incredible perseverance.Click To Tweet
But once Turner returned, the Dodgers got into a groove and were able to get 10 games above .500 by the All-Star break. And during the All-Star break, management pulled off a blockbuster trade for Manny Machado, who further weaponized an already deep Dodgers lineup — and filled the void created by Seager’s absence. The Dodgers also acquired former All-Star second baseman Brian Dozier from the Minnesota Twins — deepening their infield depth. Ultimately, the Dodgers went back and forth for the division lead in the second half of the season and finished tied with the Rockies at the conclusion of the regular season — forcing a tiebreaker game for the division.
Defeating the Rockies, 5-2, in Game 163, the Dodgers were crowned NL West champions for a sixth consecutive season. In the National League Division Series, the Dodgers took care of business, beating the Braves in four games and outscoring them 9-0 in Games 1 and 2 at Dodger Stadium. The ensuing round, the Dodgers went back and forth with the Brewers, but were able to prevail and win Game 7 in Miller Park to advance to the World Series for a second consecutive season.
The Dodgers are one of most talented and productive teams in Major League Baseball. Their offense finished the regular season fifth in runs (804), second in home runs (235), fifth in on-base percentage (.333), third in slugging (.442), and third in OPS (.774). Meanwhile, their pitching staff was second in ERA (3.38), third in strikeouts (1,565), and second in opponent on-base percentage (.290).
The Dodgers’ World Series opponent, the Boston Red Sox, have one of, if not the most electric offense in the sport. Whether it be Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez, Andrew Benintendi, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, or the recently productive Jackie Bradley Jr., first-year manager Alex Cora has a number of big impact bats in his lineup. The Red Sox also feature a starting rotation of proven commodities. Chris Sale is one of the most dominant starters in the sport; Nathan Eovaldi has made his presence felt in the postseason, surrendering just three runs in 14.1 innings; David Price was stellar in the Red Sox’ closeout Game 5 ALCS victory against the Houston Astros; Rick Porcello has been efficient in the two starts he’s made this postseason. The Red Sox bullpen, for the most part, has also been able to get the job done this postseason.
The Dodgers can counter the majority of what the Red Sox feature. With Turner, Machado, Kemp, Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig, and Max Muncy, among others present, the Dodgers have the bats to give Red Sox pitching a run for its money. On the hill, the Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw — who has pitched well this postseason — Hyun-Jin Ryu, Buehler, and Rich Hill, as well as a deep bullpen which has also been taking care of business in the late innings.
The Dodgers haven’t overwhelmed anyone to this point, but they found a way to make it back to the World Series, despite doubt creeping in from the outside at every leg of the race. When Turner was out and the Dodgers were struggling, Roberts’ ballclub looked like a team that wasn’t capable of cracking the playoffs; then, they bounced back. In late-September, they lost some crucial, tightly contested games and fell out of first place. But they did enough to force a Game 163 for the division crown and were able to win the tiebreaker. They followed with a convincing four-game series win against the Braves and grinded out a seven-game series against the Brewers.
Isn’t that all enough evidence to believe the Dodgers are capable of finding a way to overcome another hurdle?
Can the Dodgers do what they didn’t do last season and finish in the World Series? Many will say the Red Sox have the edge in this series and are the better team, but don’t disregard the Dodgers. Time will tell if they have another comeback, or heroic triumph, up their sleeve. And no one should be surprised if they do.