The 2018 Dodgers have overcome the odds all season long. Unlike the 104 win club of 2017 that breezed through the regular season and National League playoffs to the World Series, nothing has come easy for this year’s Dodgers. They’ve had to overcome many obstacles. They lost shortstop Corey Seager for most of the season due to Tommy John surgery. They lost Justin Turner for lengthy chunks due to a broken wrist in spring training. They’ve had injury problems, bullpen problems, they got off to a horrible start, and then had to defeat Colorado in a tiebreaker game just to win the NL West. Even Dodger Stadium had problems when a pipe burst spewing toxic liquid onto the field during the final day of exhibition play.
The Dodgers have overcome all of those issues to advance all the way to the National League Championship Series. They’ll have to slay one more obstacle if they want to advance to their second consecutive World Series; a winner take all game 7 against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. This one may be their most difficult test.
This has been an up and down, back and forth NLCS. It’s a dogfight and every time the Dodgers have gotten knocked down they’ve gotten back up. On Friday night they were knocked down again when they lost to the Brewers 7-2 in game 6 of the NLCS at Miller Park as Milwaukee tied the NLCS to force a game 7, to be played on Saturday night.
The series started poorly for the Dodgers when they committed four errors (two passed balls, catcher’s interference, and a missed catch error from Yasmani Grandal) in game 1. They rallied to score four runs in the later frames, and even had the tying run at third base in the top of the ninth but still fell to the Brewers 6-5. They bounced back in game 2 to tie the series thanks to a two-run home run from Justin Turner.
Then when the series shifted to Dodger Stadium they were listless, getting blanked by Jhoulys Chacin and Milwaukee 4-0 in a demoralizing game 3 loss. They found themselves down 2-1 in the series and desperately needing a win to tie. So they fought and came out victorious in a five hour 13-inning 2-1 marathon win in game 4 that evened the series. Cody Bellinger was the hero that night with an incredible game saving catch and walk-off single in the bottom of the thirteenth inning. Non-hustler Manny Machado was the catalyst in that game, singling and scoring the game winning run.
The Dodgers then found themselves back in the driver’s seat when Clayton Kershaw turned in a dominating performance in a 5-2 Dodger win in game 5. Kershaw tossed 7 innings of one-run ball and struck out nine. The Dodgers scored all five of their runs without hitting a home run, something everyone thought was not possible.
With the series shifting back to Milwaukee and the Dodgers needing just one more win to secure the pennant, they gave the ball to Hyun-jin Ryu , everyone liked their chances to wrap up the series. But the Dodgers learned a valuable lesson. When you have a chance to put a team away, especially one as good as the Brewers, you do it.
Unfortunately Ryu, who had never allowed more than three earned runs all season, allowed four runs in the bottom of the first, and another in the second to put the team in an immediate hole that the offense was unable to get them out of. The Dodgers did get a lead-off home run from David Freese (off of opposing starter Wade Miley) in the top of the first. But they scored just once more the rest of the game (thanks to Freese again, on a RBI double in the fifth) and fell to the Brewers 7-2. Now they face a game 7, winner take all in enemy territory. Even worse the Brewers will have their two best pitchers, Chacin and reliever Josh Hader available. The Dodgers will give the ball too their rookie sensation Walker Buehler.
Is Buehler up for the challenge? That remains to be seen. He gave up four runs over seven innings in their game 3 loss at Dodger Stadium. Not giving up early runs seems to be the key for the Dodgers. Once the Dodgers fell behind 5-1 after the second inning of game 6 on Friday night, they looked like they had given up. The boys in blue had just one base runner from the sixth inning on.
Buehler will become just the fourth rookie pitcher in MLB history to start a winner take all game 7. The Dodgers have been historically successful in those situations, but this time around could be a different story. That could be especially true if Buehler falters early. All hands will be on deck for the Dodgers, who will no doubt have Clayton Kershaw, Pedro Baez, and Kenley Jansen available at any time in the game.
It’s unbelievably difficult to win back-to-back pennants. The Dodgers haven’t done it since 1977-1978 when they lost both seasons in the World Series to the New York Yankees. No National League club has done it since the Phillies did it in 2008-2009. Ironically the Phillies had to defeat the Dodgers in both of those NLCS.
Here’s hoping that the Dodgers have one more fight left in them. The players have worked so hard to get this far and it would be heartbreaking to see them fall short of their goal again. We’re all sick of talking about the 1988 team. We’re starving for new memories. The Dodgers may have to channel some of those 1988 squad’s tactics if they’re going to be playing in the World Series this year. It all comes down to one game, one young man’s arm in game 7. GULP