A brush fire burned and smoke came off the hills in the distance from Dodger Stadium. The flames ripped through Southern California, becoming increasingly intense on a scorching hot afternoon.
Yankees leadoff man DJ LeMahieu lit the fire in the top of the first with a solo blast to give New York a 1-0 lead early. The ball was smoked pretty good, traveling in the hot air and over the fence, and around the bases he went. Dodgers leadoff hitter Joc Pederson ignited a blaze in the bottom of the inning with a rocket to tie the game 1-1. The ball was destroyed, soaring in the sky and out of the stadium, and around the bases he went.
The stadium was half-filled with L.A. fans. The visiting team drew a massive crowd, with thousands of New York fans turning out to watch the Yankees bomb Los Angeles. The Bronx Bombers’ home-run binge did some damage, and the Dodgers did little to minimize it.
It’s been a while, so maybe it was easy for the Dodgers to forget that the Yankees have power hitters like Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres, but pitching has been putrid at times. There’s a little bit of East Coast prejudice, sure, but the Yankees produced a power surge to get the best of the Dodgers. There’s a concoction of buzz and curiosity, sure, but the Dodgers lack of production to the dismay of sudden power outages is demoralizing.
They were held to just five runs with 39 strikeouts, six walks and only two hits in 16 at-bats with runners in scoring position. They batted a staggering .183 in the series and quickly disappeared. This was painful for those of us who saw the Dodgers’ hitters look at fastballs for strikes and chase pitches out of the zone. This was disquieting for those of us who saw the magic elude them last year in the World Series.
The Dodgers’ sputtering offense fell victim to the Yankees’ home-run ball. Their bats froze against the Yankees, and there was a shortage of power on display over the weekend. For the series, the Dodgers looked helplessly overmatched and the combination of lackluster hitting and pitching woes deflated them. Perhaps most telling of all, the Dodgers are not ready to face the Yankees in a potential rematch this fall.
It all felt like a test, and sad to say they failed. This October, the Dodgers could get another try to reverse the outcome of the regular-season meeting and harness some positive vibes. After three days of an offensive drought, and the recent run of wretched starts by their pitchers, it’s a little worrisome that the Dodgers have gone into a funk.
The lineup has slowed tremendously, with Cody Bellinger marred in a slump of his own. The All-Star slugger has only accounted for one hit in 10 at-bats over the weekend. The Yankees pounded the Dodgers’ ace, Hyun-Jin Ryu in the series opener on Friday. Then, on Sunday, the Yankees took starter Clayton Kershaw deep three times.
The left-hander set a season-high with 12 strikeouts and no walks but gave up three solo home runs. LeMahieu’s leadoff jack in the first inning was the 59th homer of the month for New York, setting a new record. In the third, Aaron Judge blasted his third solo home run of the series. In the sixth, Mike Ford slugged a solo homer to extend New York’s lead 3-1.
The Dodgers couldn’t solve Yankees stud Domingo German. After giving up a leadoff home run to the first batter he faced, he amassed five strikeouts, walked two, and threw just 85 pitches to outduel Kershaw. Still, the Dodgers are in a good spot, although they have been dragged down by pitching of late and could not muster much offense against Yankees pitchers. After all, they still hold a one-game lead over the Yankees for home-field advantage should both teams meet again in the World Series.
If the Dodgers ever want us to believe that this finally is their year, they will have to play better than this. The Yankees beat L.A. 5-1, in the series finale on Sunday night and roughed up Kershaw. To have really enjoyed this three-game set, it would have helped had the Dodgers taken at least 2 out of 3 and not 1 out of 3.
Dodger Stadium staged the latest installment of the Yankees-Dodgers rivalry. The Yankees, and not the Dodgers, who own the overall best record, look very much like a clear-cut World Series favorite. And make no mistake, the Dodgers remain the dominant force in the National League West.
But if they expect to thrive in October, they must figure out the American League and conquer their postseason demons that still haunt them. It was a dream matchup as two of baseball’s marquee clubs presumably offered a sneak peek of October in late August.
The highly anticipated series was billed as a World Series preview, and there’s something of a discussion to be had about whether the Dodgers are capable of winning against the Yankees or Astros, two of baseball’s AL powerhouses. Both the Dodgers and Yankees, the two best teams in their respective leagues, are cruising to division titles.
One thing is for sure—the Dodgers aren’t as amusing right now as they were before this series.