They say one of the biggest reasons the Dodgers have advanced to the World Series for the first time in a generation is because this team delivers a different hero every night. That’s true, and the boys with the big bats often receive all the accolades.
Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig – one can check off just about every name in the lineup as a man whose home runs and RBIs have led this team across the long summer, through the playoffs, and now, into the Fall Classic. Last night, Turner and Chris Taylor were named as co-NLCS MVPs. It was the first time that award has been split between two players, and why not? Their performances at the plate against the Cubs earned it.
This story isn’t about them, however. There was another group of Dodger Blue heroes that didn’t receive the press conferences and gold trophies, but their hard work – and near-perfect work – is a very big reason the Dodgers stand atop the National League mountain today. Those mostly unsung heroes don’t even sit in the dugout during the game. They watch and wait from inside the Dodgers’ bullpen.
The bullpen was one of the reasons why past Dodgers teams couldn’t quite get over the final hurdle and into the Fall Classic for the past couple of years. The question since 2015 has been, “Who is going to be the bridge between the starting pitcher and the best closer in baseball, Kenley Jansen? This year, through masterful late-season trades and the creative transitioning of a starter to a bullpen arm, the Dodgers have finally answered that question.
The Dodgers acquired the two Tonys – Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani at the last trade deadline of the season, and although both got off to slow starts, they evened things out, found their grooves, and became lights out just as the season was coming to a close. They did not miss a step in the NLCS. Watson and Cingrani combined to pitch 3.1 innings, and they struck out three while allowing just one hit, and no runs.
Kenta Maeda went from the starting rotation to the bullpen, and the move proved to be genius. Maeda pitched three innings over three games, struck out three (two in one inning in last night’s clincher), didn’t give up any hits, and he even picked up a win.
Brandon Morrow was the middle relief workhorse. He put in 4.2 innings of work, gave up one hit and struck out seven. Right-handers Ross Stripling and Josh Fields did their part as well, working scoreless innings in their appearances.
And then, of course, there’s the big man, Kenley Jansen. Kenley pitched 4.1 innings, striking out EIGHT batters, and not giving up a single hit or a run. He also picked up a save and a win in the series. His strike outs per nine innings (K/9) stat was an astounding 16.62.
All told, the bullpen gave up only four hits, and struck out 22 across 17 innings. Their ERA? 0.00 – perfection.
All hail the boys swinging the big bats – but don’t forget the men with the golden arms who protect the leads and nail down the wins.