Re­silient Dodgers re­turn to dom­i­nant form

Ker­shaw and Co. book ticket to NLCS

Kenora Daily Miner and News - - SPORTS - GREG BEACHAM

LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers’ 1-16 skid from late Au­gust into Septem­ber seemed strange while it was hap­pen­ing. After spend­ing all sum­mer as the most re­silient, re­source­ful team in base­ball, Los Angeles sud­denly stopped scor­ing the ex­tra runs and earn­ing the late-game breaks that had made it so dom­i­nant.

When the 104-win Dodgers swept past Ari­zona and into the NL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries on Monday night, that late­sea­son slump looked even more in­ex­pli­ca­ble.

But, it’s clear the Dodgers have flipped their switch back on again, and that should worry ev­ery prospec­tive op­po­nent of this high-priced, high-powered dy­namo.

After four days off, the Dodgers will get back to work this week­end when they host ei­ther the Chicago Cubs or Wash­ing­ton on Satur­day night to be­gin Los Angeles’ fifth NLCS in 10 years.

The Dodgers earned an ex­tended break with their onesided se­ries vic­tory over the Di­a­mond­backs, one of the few teams to give con­sis­tent trou­ble to Los Angeles in the reg­u­lar sea­son. The Dodgers capped the sweep with a 3-1 win in the clincher, get­ting timely of­fence from rookie Cody Bellinger and a strong start from late-sea­son pickup Yu Darvish be­fore the for­mi­da­ble bullpen and closer Ken­ley Jansen slammed an­other door.

“You look at the three games in the se­ries, and they’re all team wins,” said man­ager Dave Roberts, whose club outscored Ari­zona 20-11. “From the first pitch, there was a plan in place, and we ex­e­cuted. We were re­lent­less ev­ery sin­gle pitch.”

The last four times the Dodgers played for the NL pennant in the past decade, they came up short of their first World Se­ries since 1988. The Cubs and the Na­tion­als both pose enor­mous chal­lenges, but the Dodgers earned their fifth straight NL West ti­tle, racked up the best record in base­ball and then swept past the Di­a­mond­backs en­tirely to get back in po­si­tion for their best shot yet at the Fall Clas­sic.

“It’s just about do­ing your part,” Jansen said. “We were here last year, and you saw how close we got. It hurts. We’ve got to ad­mit it. We know how good we are, and we know we fell short. We’ve been talk­ing about this the whole year, since Jan­uary when Justin (Turner) and I re­signed. From spring train­ing, we’ve been talk­ing about win­ning a cham­pi­onship. That’s ev­ery­body’s mind­set here. We know how hard it is, and we aren’t tak­ing any­thing for granted. We’re go­ing to keep grind­ing.”

In­deed, these Dodgers are a dom­i­nant team that doesn’t al­ways dom­i­nate in the tra­di­tional sense of the term.

While lead­ing the ma­jors in vic­to­ries for the first time since 1974, they won 25 onerun games and 20 more by two runs. Los Angeles par­tic­u­larly ex­celled in close games while go­ing on an 82-25 run from late April to late Au­gust — match­ing the 1998 Yan­kees for the best four-month per­for­mance in the past 100 years.

Roberts’ ex­pen­sive ros­ter shows a re­mark­able affin­ity for team­work and self­less­ness. Former stars such as An­dre Ethier, Cur­tis Gran­der­son and Chase Ut­ley have ca­pa­bly ac­cepted sup­port­ing roles, while long­time starter Kenta Maeda’s ac­cep­tance of a move to the bullpen gives the Dodgers a daunt­ing re­lief spe­cial­ist against right-handed bat­ters — and pro­vides an­other ex­am­ple of how much win­ning means to this club.

Los Angeles’ defence has also been su­perb, as ex­em­pli­fied by sev­eral huge plays from Bellinger in Game 3 at Ari­zona. Yasiel Puig also plays ex­tra­or­di­nary defence in right field when he isn’t driv­ing in runs or spurring on his team­mates with his tongue-wag­ging ex­u­ber­ance and joie de vivre.

The sweep al­lows Roberts to set his ro­ta­tion in any way he chooses. Clay­ton Ker­shaw — who didn’t even need to pitch in re­lief in this par­tic­u­lar NLDS after his mem­o­rable turn last year against the Na­tion­als — can start the NLCS opener Satur­day on seven days’ rest, with Rich Hill, Darvish and Alex Wood all well-rested and ready to take their turn.

“I’m not go­ing to do any­thing for me in the post-sea­son that’s very un­char­ac­ter­is­tic,” Roberts said. “I think that each game tells you how to re­spond. But it is nice to know you have eight fresh arms in the pen.”

CHRIS­TIAN PE­TERSEN/ GETTY IMAGES

Los Angeles Dodgers’ pitcher Clay­ton Ker­shaw cel­e­brates with team­mates after de­feat­ing the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs 3-1 to win the Na­tional League Divi­sional Se­ries at Chase Field, on Monday, in Phoenix, Ariz.

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