Dodgers: Someone Explain To Us Again Why We Tried To Win The Division?
We all like a day off now and then. Two days are even better. Three? Sure! But six? After a week off, when we go back to work, we try to make coffee without the filter, accidentally walk into the wrong bathroom, and we have to reset our password because we forgot it. As the old saying goes, “Everything in moderation.” And it seems the saying holds true for Major League Baseball division winners come playoff time. In fact, nine of the last 11 teams with extended time off lost their division series according to a little research by 95.7 The Game. Hmmm… two wins, nine losses. Not good. Last year’s Los Angeles Dodgers team won 111 and lost to the San Diego Padres in the Division Series…the Padres! This year, the Orioles, Dodgers, Braves, and Astros had six days off at the end of the regular season. The record after day one of the National League and American League Division Series for those teams? One win, three losses.
Here we go again?
The Dodgers are one of those with a loss after Clayton Kershaw did his best impression of really-bad, postseason Clayton Kershaw and did something he had never done before: get yanked out of a ballgame in the first inning. Former Dodger whipping boy, Merrill Kelly had a 3.29 earned run average this year for the Arizona Diamondbacks and would have seemed to be the ideal Game 1 starter in the ALDS, excepppppppt for the fact he was 0-11 in his career against the Dodgers with a 5.69 ERA overall and an ERA over seven at Dodgers Stadium. But streaks are made to be broken and Kelly finally broke his.
The D-backs hope to build on the success of Game 1 and turn their style of baseball -166 stolen bases (most in MLB), 36 sacrifice bunts (most in MLB), and the fourth-fewest strikeouts into two more wins. Those are nice attributes to have, not to mention Zach Gallen (3.47 ERA and 188 strikeouts in 210 innings).
There are a couple of obstacles they will have to overcome, like not being as good at some key positions. Poor Ketel Marte. For a lead off man, .276 and 25 home runs is pretty darned good, but the guy in the other dugout in the same batting position -Mookie Betts- hit .307 and has 39 home runs. There is also a guy named Freddie Freeman at first base and guys named J.D. Martinez and Max Muncy who had 30 homers and 100 RBIs. Granted, Christian Walker is just as good if not better than Freeman defensively. Bobby Miller, if on, is pure gas and will be the Dodgers Game 2 starter. And as bad as Kershaw was in Game 1, he has historically bounced back with solid, and occasionally dominating, outings following disastrous ones in the postseason. Speaking of rebounds, a 2018 study by The Hardball Times found that the team that had been bludgeoned in a rout came back to win the next game 45 percent of the time. The writeup of the study did not break down teams with winning records who lost and came back to win. The study included 1,183 games and generally found that teams with better records won more blowout games. Duh, but I’m glad they went to the effort. The point being: a great team like the Dodgers isn’t likely to come out Monday night and get smoked again.
There is also an interesting battle of rookies Corbin Carroll and James Outman. Outman looked like the rookie of the year the first month of the season for the Dodgers before slumping horribly and then regaining form to finish with a .248 average, 23 home runs and 70 RBIs. He made spectacular catch after spectacular catch from the center field position. Carroll, the right-fielder hit .285 with 25 homers, 56 stolen bases, and 74 RBIs.
Is the drubbing by the Diamondbacks the end of the series? Not likely. L.A. has too much firepower and experience to let that happen. Also, the Dodgers don’t have to look far to find a team that had a successful postseason after having had a lengthy vacation before the division series. That team would be: the Houston Astros, also known as, the 2022 World Champions.