There may be little query now that the 2020 version is essentially the most gifted Dodgers workforce of all of them. It’s there of their franchise-record successful proportion. And it’s there in proper subject and within the right-handed batter’s field, the place Mookie Betts, a participant in contrast to any the Dodgers have suited up throughout this run of eight straight division titles, alters video games on a nightly foundation together with his glove or his bat, or generally each.
However now — after beating the Atlanta Braves, 3-1, in Sport 6 of the Nationwide League Championship Sequence on Saturday, forcing a winner-take-all Sport 7 on Sunday night time — the Dodgers have reached the annual inflection level, the place one potential end result inflicts the utmost quantity of ache and ensures one other lengthy and lonely winter, whereas the opposite places them again within the World Sequence beginning Tuesday with an opportunity to validate seven autumns’ price of heartbreak.
For a second straight day, the Dodgers arrived at Globe Life Subject with their season on the sting of the abyss, and for a second straight day they staved off elimination. For the second straight day, the end result hinged largely on an beautiful play in proper subject by Betts — this time, a sprinting, leaping catch on the wall on Marcell Ozuna’s lined smash within the fifth inning, saving a essential run. Betts hauled it in, then high-stepped and hooted his method again to the Dodgers’ dugout. Proper-hander Walker Buehler, the grateful beneficiary, stood on the mound together with his arm raised in triumph.
To come back again from being down 3-1 within the collection, tie it up with a few emotional and hard-fought victories, solely to stumble badly in Sport 7 — that will be essentially the most Dodgers method of all to lose, as a result of it will be the hardest to abdomen. They may ship right-hander Tony Gonsolin to the mound Sunday to face Braves right-hander Ian Anderson in a rematch of the rookies who began Sport 2.
However the Dodgers have been saying for weeks that this workforce is completely different. And except for Betts — acquired in a blockbuster commerce with Boston in February, then signed to a $365 million extension — there’s one different compelling motive to consider they is perhaps proper: shortstop Corey Seager.
It’s true, Seager has been a cornerstone of the Dodgers since 2015. However he has by no means exerted his will over a postseason the best way he has this month. He homered once more Saturday — a first-inning blast off Braves lefty Max Fried, Seager’s fifth of the collection, an NLCS document. Solely Nelson Cruz, who had six for the Texas Rangers within the 2011 American League Championship Sequence, has hit extra homers in any postseason collection.
As this postseason started, the Dodgers’ shortstop was saddled with a fame, well-earned, for developing brief in October. He was a profession .203 hitter with a .605 on-base-plus-slugging proportion in his first 4 journeys to the playoffs (he was injured and missed 2018), with 41 strikeouts in 31 video games — an ugly monitor document that lent credence to the notion Seager had by no means actually fulfilled the promise of his 2016 rookie of the 12 months breakthrough. It was broadly believed, precisely or not, that the Dodgers had designs on changing him with Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor as quickly because the latter hit free company.
However Seager is now hitting .333 and slugging .857 this postseason, generally carrying the Dodgers’ offense. Other than Betts, he’s their most indispensable participant.
Justin Turner adopted Seager’s homer with one in all his personal — a part of a three-run first inning in opposition to Fried, the Braves’ ace. Fried, a contender for the NL Cy Younger Award, pitched 56 innings within the common season, confronted 224 batters and threw 899 pitches, and he solely gave up two residence runs. On Saturday, the Dodgers had that many by the third hitter of the sport.
The ambush of Fried was swift and thorough sufficient to immediate the query of whether or not the Dodgers had detected a “inform” in his supply — in different phrases, that Fried was tipping his pitches. The idea was solely bolstered when, after having the good thing about time between innings to gather himself and seek the advice of together with his pitching coach, Fried got here again and blanked the Dodgers till departing within the seventh.
It’s what the Dodgers do: They work out a pitcher over time till, lastly, they get him. They did it earlier on this collection with among the Braves’ relievers — lefty Will Smith involves thoughts — wanting helpless in opposition to them the primary time however ultimately unlocking the thriller with devastating impact.
The Dodgers’ three-run first solely underscored the best way this collection has been one lengthy sequence of roundhouse punches which have landed with devastating impact. Sport 6 was solely the second within the collection to be determined by fewer than 4 runs. The Dodgers gained Sport Three by a whopping 12 runs — the Braves, in flip, gained Sport four by eight.
And because the play that turned the collection within the Dodgers’ favor — Betts’s shoestring catch of a sinking liner within the third inning of Sport 5, which turned a double play when Ozuna was caught on replay failing to tag up at third base earlier than sprinting residence — the Dodgers have outscored the Braves by a 10-2 margin.
Forward 2-Zero within the collection, after which once more 3-1, the Braves thought-about Fried and Anderson their two-headed firewall in opposition to a possible collapse. Getting into Saturday, they have been 6-Zero this postseason in video games began by that pair, together with wins in Video games 1 and a couple of of this collection.
However now Fried has fallen sufferer to the Dodgers — outpitched in Sport 6 by Buehler, who tossed six innings of scoreless ball in his newest big-game gem — and all of the Braves have left is Anderson, who’s immensely gifted however entered this postseason with simply six massive league begins to his identify.
Are the Dodgers simply setting themselves up for essentially the most painful doable end to their 2020 season, consistent with their current historical past of ugly October losses? Will the entire thing collapse in a well-known method? Mookie Betts, for one, is right here to let you know this time it’s completely different. Corey Seager, for an additional, is right here to say he agrees.