It wasn’t just another game for Alex Burrows
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 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 highpriced, 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 one-sided 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.
While leading the majors in victories for the first time since 1974, they won 25 one-run 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.”
VANCOUVER — The expectation was Alex Burrows would be welcomed back with open arms Tuesday night at Rogers Arena.
This wasn’t just any other night or any other game for the Ottawa Senators’ winger, it was his chance to returntotheplacehecalledhomefor 12 NHL seasons with the Vancouver Canucks and the belief was a video to honour his career with the club during the first television timeout was going to be emotional.
Make no mistake, Burrows, 36, made his impact felt here which is why this night was going to be special.
“I had a chance to talk to him this morning and he seems excited. It’s going to be a special night for him for sure and for the guys in this room who played with him,” said Canucks winger Daniel Sedin after Tuesday’s morning skate.
Sedin has plenty of respect for the way Burrows carved out his career with the Canucks after going undrafted and spending three seasons in the East Coast Hockey League before earning an AHL deal with the Vancouver organization.
“He started out as a fourth-line guy (in 2005-06) and he did everything he could to stay on this team and be good for this team,” Sedin added. “That’s something you have to respect and that’s something you want to see from guys nowadays _ (players) that do everything they can to stay in the lineup.
“He moved up. He started on the fourth-line, moved up to third and then we (Daniel and his brother Henrik Sedin) got a chance to play with him as well and had a lot of success. A big part of that success was him.”
The Senators arrived in Vancouver Sunday afternoon so the players could try to get adjusted to the time change and that allowed Burrows the opportunity to catch up with some of his ex-teammates Monday for dinner which is why he will be happy to have this game behind him so he can turn the page.
“This city means a lot to me. It has a special place in my heart,” Burrow told a huge media scrum in the Ottawa locker room. “I caught up with a few guys (Sunday) night and once the puck drop it’s going to be business-like. We need these points and that’s why we’re here.
He admitted the tribute would be emotional for him.
“A little bit,” Burrows said. “I spent 12 great years in this city and this team meant a lot to me. I’m sure (the video) is going to be special to me but at the same time once it’s all over I need to focus on my game and helping my team win.”
Naturally, his former teammates were bugging him because they were going to get the chance to play against him for the first time since he was dealt to the Senators at last February’s trade deadline. Winger Jake Virtanen exchanged barbs with Burrows by text message.
“It’s be great to see Burr. I texted him last night and said I’m coming after him. He replied with some things I probably can’t say,” said Virtanen with a smile.
In Vancouver, Burrows’ actions spoke louder than words. He gave everything he had every time he pulled on the No. 14 jersey for the Canucks and people appreciated his work ethic. It was a big reason why he earned the right to play with the Sedin twins on the club’s top line at one point in his career.
“He meant a lot to this organization,” Daniel Sedin said. “Not only on the ice, but off the ice as well. He did so many great things in this community and meant a lot to the young guys on this team.
“I think he set a great example for how to act inside and outside the locker room.”
Burrows was trying to take it all in stride but he wasn’t sure what it was going to feel like to skate here in another uniform.
“I don’t know what it’s going to be like. My main focus will be to play a normal game and try to forget all my old friends on the other team and that jersey on the other team,” Burrows said. “I’m just going to try to focus on trying to help my team win. It might be hard, but that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
That may have been easier said than done for Burrows.
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.