In June, the Dodgers were in last place. From July to September, they were the best team in baseball.
Now, with Game Six of the NLCS upon us, they are just nine innings away from elimination.
I might be overly optimistic here, but this series has a different feel to it than 2009’s. Back then, the playoffs were even more of a foreign concept to the Dodgers. The team had had a tremendous season and even earned home field advantage all the way through the NLCS, where they faced the Phillies, the same team they had faced in 2008.
But the Boys in Blue didn’t look ready. A high-powered Phillies offense jumped all over the Dodgers, and with a 10-4 loss in Game Five, L.A.’s season was over.
While the Cardinals are arguably the best team in the National League, today’s Dodgers have endured too much to lay down in a potential clincher against the Cardinals tonight. But, as we saw in Game 2, which featured the same starting pitchers—Clayton Kershaw and Michael Wacha—both are pretty darn good.
Kershaw was good last Saturday, but rookie Michael Wacha was masterful, and that made the difference. Despite not allowing an earned run in six innings of work, Kershaw was pinged with the loss. Wacha struck out eight in six and two-thirds innings of work. The Dodgers left St. Louis with a 2-0 series deficit as a result.
Even though the Dodgers now find themselves with their backs up against the wall, they’ve played significantly better over the last three games. Following his NLDS dud of a start, Hyun-Jin Ryu blanked the Cardinals over seven innings of work to notch his first-ever postseason win. Don Mattingly made the call to start Ricky Nolasco over Zack Greinke on Tuesday, and the result was very Ricky Nolasco-ish. The No. 4 starter lasted just four innings and allowed three runs, and the Cardinals took a commanding 3-1 series lead. With an extra day of rest, our quasi-ace, Greinke, scattered six hits over seven innings to keep the Dodgers alive. But it took nearly putting the entire city of Los Angeles on cardiac arrest, as closer Kenley Jansen allowed four hits and two runs to bring the Cardinals within a couple more hits of tying the game.
For fear of sounding like a broken record, I’ll wrap this up: Clayton Kershaw is the Dodgers’ best hope now. And, judging by his success earlier this series, it seems like Ryu, the “if necessary Game Seven” starter, has figured this whole postseason pitching thing out. The hopes of all Angelinos for a Dodgers World Series could be on his shoulders Saturday night. No pressure, right?
The first pitch for tonight’s game is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. PST. Our Dodgers need a comeback as much as the dancing bear atop their dugout does.