The postseason has a way of making us incredibly nervous. It has a way of taking over our thoughts and instilling a little anxiety and a lot of excitement. But the postseason can also remind us why we fell in love with the game in the first place.
On Monday night, the Dodgers clinched a spot in the NLCS, the first of two clubs, with their sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS. I’ll admit, I knew the Dodgers would win in the division series. Like many, I had faith, but I did not predict this. I didn’t predict that the Dodgers would win the series in a sweep. I didn’t predict that Justin Turner would kick off the scoring in the NLDS with a monster three-run homer in the first inning of Game 1. I had faith in the Dodgers, and I always will, but this series was something else. This series was the kind of thing people write about in novels.
Pitching-wise, this NLDS could not have gone better for the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw only pitched once, back in Game 1. All-Star starter Alex Wood wasn’t even used in this series. Rich Hill and Yu Darvish pitched incredibly well in Games 2 and 3, and the Dodgers’ bullpen lived up to its stellar reputation.
But pitching is not why the Dodgers won on Monday.
The Dodgers won because they remembered what July looked like, and they became that team once more.
After Zack Greinke gave up home runs to Cody Bellinger and Austin Barnes in back-to-back innings, the Dodgers were close to a celebration. Kenta Maeda was called into the game in the eighth frame, where he pretty much condensed the quality and strength of his best start into one inning. With the Dodgers three outs away from moving on to the NLCS, Kenley Jansen was given the ball, and the rest is history.
Everything worked for the Dodgers in this series, but the key to winning in the NLCS is not counting on everything working again, but handling problems if things go awry. The Dodgers navigated their way through an eleven game losing streak, so I have full faith that, if things do go wrong, they’ll figure it out.
The NLDS means a lot for the Dodgers heading into the Championship Series. Kershaw is fully rested, Alex Wood can easily be put into the game at any point, for his first appearance of the postseason. Bellinger, who already hit his first postseason home run, will continue to be the cleanup hitter the Dodgers need, and the series will once again start at home.
Who the Dodgers’ opponent in the NLCS will be is yet to be determined, but either way, it will be a team that the Dodgers saw last October. It could be the Nationals, the team the Dodgers faced in last year’s NLDS, or it could be the Cubs, meaning a rematch of last years NLCS.
The Dodgers are a different team this year, they proved that these past three games. So, if the Dodgers are a different team, it must mean the postseason will be different, too. The Dodgers played quality baseball these past three games, and I have faith that what we saw this weekend is just the beginning.
(FOLLOW SARAH ON TWITTER: @SARAHMANINGER)