Dodgers back in the groove

L.A.’s late­sea­son swoon for­got­ten after Ari­zona sweep

Metro Canada (Edmonton) - - Sports -

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 lategame 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 late-sea­son 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 re-signed. 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.

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.

The sweep al­lows Roberts to set his ro­ta­tion in any way he chooses. Clay­ton Ker­shaw 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.’’

Norm Hall/Getty ImaGes

The Dodgers cel­e­brate after re­lief pitcher Ken­ley Jansen closed out the Di­a­mond­backs in Game 3 of the NLDS at Chase Field on Monday night in Phoenix.

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