They’re doing it again. It is October, around the time when the Dodgers find a way to screw it all up. Yeah, again, they’re blowing it, and everything appears to be falling apart.
This can’t be real. It just can’t be. It should tell you something about the Dodgers, the same team that finished the abbreviated 60-game season with MLB’s best record at 43-17, clinching an eighth straight National League West division title. These are not the dominant Dodgers of the regular season, the team equipped with a power-hitting lineup.
The Dodgers, of course, have a history of choking on peanuts, cotton candy and Dodger Dogs. Now’s a good time as any to win the World Series, while the championship window is still cracked opened. This is supposed to be their year, last year was supposed to be their year, the year before that was supposed to be their year, and the year before that. This is a really good group of guys, but just know that some players and teams just aren’t built for October baseball. This team, while similarly constructed to the teams that came before them, is better built, a more complete team, but they’re never able to survive a best-of-seven series.
They’re obviously a talented team, a top-five team every year it seems, but their season ends in disappointment every October. Whether it’s the terrifying anxiety associated with the postseason, the pandemic-shortened season, the overwhelming pressure that comes with a playoff game, the Dodgers have not been able to erase a recent history of postseason failures. The demons are still there, they are lurking.
As you prepare for another season of troubles, tough luck and letdowns, you know that there has already been a repeat of last year’s playoff nightmares, we’ve seen this horror movie before, and it could have a horrifying ending. Now it’s a matter of fighting out of a 2-0 hole, and keeping their flickering postseason hopes alive, trailing the Atlanta Braves in the National League Championship series.
Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman has owned the Dodgers. In the series-opener, he smashed a solo homer off starter Walker Buehler in the first inning. In Game 2, he repeated his home run performance and hit a two-run bomb off starter Tony Gonsolin in the fourth to break a scoreless tie. And, of course, Atlanta didn’t waste any time putting up runs on the Dodgers pitchers who dominated the Padres. The Braves were up 7-0 in the bottom portion of the seventh until the Dodgers rallied late but came up short, falling 8-7 to Atlanta in Game 2 on Tuesday night at Globe Life Field.
Any doubts the Dodgers had about their ability to pile up runs in bunches were wiped away when Corey Seager smashed a three-run homer in the seventh inning to give his team life. It would remain 7-3 into the bottom of the ninth, until Max Muncy clobbered a two-out, two-run blast to pull the Dodgers within two. Cody Bellinger then capped a four-run inning with a triple to cut the team’s deficit to a run, but A.J. Pollock fouled off a fastball, then grounded out on the next pitch to end the game.
The Dodgers got down early and it was too little, too late to pull off one of their magic tricks as they fell short of their comeback attempt. Gonsolin started in Kershaw’s place and pitched decently, holding the Braves scoreless through three innings. And then he began to falter. He was responsible for giving up five runs by the time he was pulled in the fifth.
The Braves’ surge would continue, getting worse and worse for the Dodgers. The way they were hitting the ball, the Dodgers weren’t going to have much of a chance. It was a productive fifth for Atlanta as Cristian Pache laced an RBI single and scored on Freeman’s single. With two runners on, Travis d’Arnaud walked to load the bases against Pedro Baez, and then Ozzie Albies picked up a sacrifice fly after a nice running grab from Cody Bellinger to put the Braves up 6-0 in the fifth.
They’re going to be depending on their arms if they can’t compile hits in a heavily pitchers-friendly stadium, where the Dodgers have found some offensive success already having swept the Padres in the best-of-five series. To get back to the World Series and take care of unfinished business, the Dodgers must manufacture runs and guys like Bellinger, Muncy, Seager and Mookie Betts have to make something happen. The four of them have had a good number of opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position.
With there being a shortage of power, the Dodgers’ offense looks the same just like a year ago. And if smacking the ball around the yard is their Achilles’ heel, as it appears to be, the Dodgers are in for a long, tough series against a young and exuberant Braves club. We’re talking about a team that lives and dies by the long fly ball. But as we’ve seen time and again, Los Angeles’ formula tends to fail in October, and it’s mostly because this Dodgers’ lineup faces stellar pitching in the postseason.
It’s clear now that offensive troubles aren’t fading away any time soon for these lifeless Dodgers. The hitting difficulty alone would have undone plenty. The shortcomings alone stagger those who keep believing in these guys, and yet they leave us in an endless loop of feeling let down.
The hitters are not putting the ball in play, they’re striking out, grounding out, flying out, popping out and not getting on base. These Dodgers have a habit of disappearing altogether at the most inopportune times, often coming against opposing teams with electric arms at the top of their starting rotation.
The Dodgers’ ice-cold offense can’t deliver a series of big hits that normally elude them particularly with runners on base. This is the Dodgers’ eighth try with their talented bunch, so most anticipate a postseason run that would end in a World Series victory. Coming into the season, the Dodgers were heavy favorites for good reason. They have a very formidable lineup with a slew of power hitters who can drive the ball to all fields. The depth of the Dodgers’ starting rotation is plentiful, with electric arms on their pitching staff.
This could be a critical juncture for the 32-year-old Clayton Kershaw. But he was scratched from his Game 2 start because of back spasms, the team announced Tuesday morning. The feeling around Los Angeles is that he certainly will have to maintain his dominant form through the postseason, and not come unraveled quickly and spectacularly when situations become especially difficult.
The Dodgers are in hunt for the trophy. And, as we know, these guys can’t win playing like this.