Dodgers Sweep Through Arizona Desert


Just one out away, the lightning-quick right hander Kenley Jansen stood there on the mound, took one last deep breath, stared in for the sign, nodded his head and then delivered a 95-mph cutter to slugger Paul Goldschmidt on a 3-2 count that glided away from the MVP candidate.


There was no splashing, no cannonball dives into the swimming pool behind the right-center field wall for an epic pool party and for some chlorine-soaked fun. There were the usual celebratory gestures, players lifting each other off their feet with bear hugs in celebration of the Dodgers 3-1 series-clinching victory and a three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks in their NL Division Series. Austin Barnes, pumping his fist, cracked a smile and leaped into Jansen’s arms. This was followed by an elated Cody Bellinger running wildly over from first base to join his teammates at midfield.

The win sends the Dodgers back to the NL Championship Series for a potential rematch against the Cubs or Nationals. Currently, Chicago leads, 2-1, in a series that could be decided in five games. On Monday night, making almost every highlight reel worthy — Bellinger went 2-for-4 with a home run, a walk, and two RBIs in Game 3. From his diving stop on Ketel Marte’s grounder and then a flip to first for the out, to turning a 3-6-3 double play off the bat of David Peralta, to the belly-flopping catch over the dugout railing to rob an out, he willed himself to become a web-gem stud.

The Dodgers are well and alive, but their ride to the championship series presents even more  challenges with a pair of National League teams that are very evenly matched. These Dodgers are billed as the best team in baseball, good enough to win the pennant. The only time this franchise, which hasn’t reached the World Series since 1988, amounted to something was during the summer. The dream that was suddenly coming true for the Dodgers, winners of five straight division titles, was a moment of rampant joy. After all those sleepless nights, the lingering pain, the unvarying disappointments year after year, the Dodgers, for once, have fulfilled expectations.

Making the most of the summer, the Dodgers swept opponents in three-game series, and won 43 or more over a 50-game stretch. Now, they are making the most of autumn, playing with far greater intensity than ever before in October. This time, quite notably, there was no early postseason exit. This time, there was a more dominant Dodgers team quickly sweeping through the hot desert. They have played all season to erase the bad memories of their downfalls in the playoffs, where they’ve lost twice in the NLCS and two other times in the division series.

If anything, it’s gotten more intriguing. The odds should favor the Dodgers clinching a World Series berth, just four wins away from the championship round. It was haunted spirits lurking at a muted Chase Field on this particular night. The Arizona crowd could hear the whispers and feel the sudden cold spots in the stadium that roamed the Valley of the Sun. It was a visiting dugout that erupted in delight on this occasion. The Dodgers’ players could almost taste the sweetness of a World Series and smell the champagne. This is supposed to be their time, and the year they finally pull through to win a title.

It’s been a few years now that they’ve laid the groundwork for potentially the greatest runs in franchise history. So here they were, the NL West champions wearing down the arms of Diamondback pitchers by working the pitch count. The Dodgers are bucking a trend and have gone back to playing their style of baseball that got them here.

The Diamondbacks, considered a contender early in the spring, were so good that they finished the year with 93 victories, the third-most regular-season wins in the National League and one better than the Chicago Cubs. Also, if we’re comparing the two teams, Arizona was clearly no match for the Dodgers. In three games alone, the boys in blue trailed only three innings, despite that the Diamondbacks had won 11 of 19 games against them in the season series.

Though the Dodgers still have work that needs to be done, eight victories away from winning a title, they have never, not once in their five straight playoff appearances, piled on as many runs as they have in this series. It might seem surprising to see that the Dodgers, whose bats are usually quiet in the fall — you might have heard or recalled from watching in past postseasons — scored 11 runs in 10 1/3 innings. That’s what every Dodgers fan expected from them the last five seasons, to score and take an eventual trip to the World Series, but they’ve fallen short of that goal every October.

Last season, the Dodgers didn’t have the newest pitcher Yu Darvish. He was as good as advertised, the best starter who took the mound in the series. Doubt had emerged over whether he’d be that third guy to pitch in the starting rotation, where quality pitching was in short supply. By virtue of Darvish’s best outing of his career in the big leagues, Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers ace, should feel some relief as he can sit back on the bench in the dugout. For Darvish, it was a brilliant performance. He allowed one run on two hits in five innings with seven strikeouts and no walks.

Yuuuuuuuu the man!

So was Bellinger, who recorded his first postseason extra-base hit with a homer in the top of the fifth. The young rookie came to the plate in the first and put the Dodgers on the board early which has been their strong point since Game 1. It was Chris Taylor tearing into ex-Dodger Zack Greinke’s 98-mph fastball, ripping a two-strike, leadoff double. Then, Bellinger touched a pitch Greinke served up and brought in Taylor with an RBI grounder. In the fifth, Bellinger got ahead 3-0, then sent a rocket that traveled 416 feet to left-center to make it 2-0 Dodgers.

In what has been a stellar postseason run —at least in the early going, the Dodgers look hungrier and more determined not to disappoint but delight. At this time last year, they barely survived a best-of-five series, pulling it out with Kershaw getting the save in relief of Jansen to dispatch the Nationals in a deciding Game 5.

That was a year ago. This is now. This is a different Dodgers team, one with a group of guys who could be riding on a float on Figueroa Street in early November.

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Jonathan Mathis as known as The Sports Judge is the founder of SoCalChronicle. He is a professional Sports writer, contributor, Youtuber, podcaster @ ASAP Network, and co-host of Gonzo & The Judge Sports Talk. Follow the [email protected]


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