This season doesn't have the same feel to it as last year did, but all of a sudden for Dodger fans, World Series fever might be setting in a little bit. There's still a little ways to go, but after two impressive pitching performances at home, this team seems poised to enter the Fall Classic for the second consecutive year. And if they get there, who knows what will happen.
Los Angeles needed a 163rd and deciding game to win their sixth straight National League western division crown. They only needed four games to make it to the NL Championship series for the third straight year. Four more wins mean a second straight trip to the World Series, and four more wins after that would mean a victory parade for the first time in three decades. Yeah, I know, that's still a ways away, which is why there are lots more games to watch.
There was a wee bit of controversy when manager Dave Roberts went with Hyun-Jin Ryu instead of Clayton Kershaw in game one against the Atlanta Braves. Ryu pitched seven shutout innings at Dodger Stadium and the Dodgers beat the Braves 6-0 in game one Thursday night. Not to be outdone, Kershaw one-ups Ryu and throws eight shutout innings in a 3-0 win in game two. On to Atlanta for a possible sweep.
Despite a series of bad pitches and questionable decisions, the Dodgers could have taken game three. Rookie phenom Walker Buehler had one bad inning, culminating in a grand slam and an Atlanta 5-0 lead. Buehler settled down, and was back into a groove, but with a chance to score a couple of runs in the top of the sixth tied 5-5, Roberts pinch-hit for Buehler, but the gamble did not pay off. Alex Wood came on in relief in the bottom of the sixth and gave up a home run, which turned out to be the game-winner for the Braves. No series sweep, but Rich Hill on the mound in game four.
Hill wasn't as dominant as Ryu, Kershaw, or Buehler in four of his five innings, but he left in the fifth inning trailing only 2-1. The Dodgers scored two in the sixth on a pinch-single by David Freese, and sealed the deal in the seventh with a three-run homer by Manny Machado, sending the Dodgers to a 6-2 victory and the NLCS starting in Milwaukee Friday night.
Likely MVP Christian Yelich, (steroid boy) Ryan Braun, and a host of good relief pitchers await the Dodgers in the next round. Pitching (Dodger starters vs. Brewers bullpen) will be the main storyline, but for the second consecutive series, Matt Kemp provides a nice sidebar. Kemp was traded from Atlanta to Los Angeles prior to this season in what was considered a salary dump for both teams. Kemp, though, batted .290 with 21 homers and 85 RBIs. Against Milwaukee, the subject will be 2011. Braun was MVP that year, batting .332 with 33 HR, 111 RBI, and 33 steals. He would later receive one of the longest suspensions for steroid use, finally admitting that he used after not only vehement denials, but blaming the Fed Ex man for delivering a bad urine sample. Kemp that year, hit .324 with 39 homers, 126 RBIs, and 40 steals. Some say Kemp deserved the MVP award anyway, and Dodger fans became more so when Braun was subsequently suspended.
Rockies swept: It ended up being too much for Colorado. The Rockies played four games in four cities in five days. They won their regular season finale in Denver Sunday, lost to the Dodgers in the tiebreaker game in Los Angeles on Monday which made them a wild card team, beat the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday in that wild card game which sent them to the Division Series in Milwaukee on Thursday. The Brewers pounced right away, and took all three games, and now face the Dodgers for the National League pennant.
Astros roll over Cleveland: A World Series rematch is not only still possible, it almost seems likely. The Houston Astros beat up on Cleveland and won three straight, advancing to the American League Championship Series. They'll face either the Yankees or the Red Sox—the only Division Series which hasn't been decided yet.
Yanks and Sawx: If you didn't stick around for the end of tonight's pivotal game three between Boston and New York at Yankee Stadium, you can't really be blamed, but you missed history. Down 14-1 entering the ninth inning, the Yankees put backup catcher Austin Romine on the mound to finish up. That wasn't the historical part. After getting a couple of outs and then a walk, Brock Holt homered to make the score 16-1. He also became the first player in Major League history to hit for the cycle in the post season. Holt singled, tripled, and doubled earlier in the game. Boston leads the series two games to one, with game four tomorrow in the Bronx (5pm PT on TBS).
Tomorrow would have been my Uncle Marty's 89th Birthday, and is also the 15th anniversary of my Aunt Judy's death. I miss them both so much. Two of the most influential people in my life.