It wasn’t just an­other game for Alex Bur­rows

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - SPORTS - GREG BEACHAM BRUCE GAR­RIOCH

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.

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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