Somehow, the Dodgers find themselves one win away from a return to the World Series.
Despite an initial bad outing from their ace, despite being pretty bad at bringing runners home, despite being shut out, despite the disappearance of the long ball, they are still leading the National League’s top regular season team three games to two in the NLCS.
The Dodgers had never won consecutive playoff games in which they didn’t homer, until they did it in Games 4 & 5, both of those games being within a 24-hour period. In Wednesday’s game, they had only one extra base hit, and still managed to score five runs.
The team that was so reliant on the long ball during the regular season seems to be now relying on small ball, and with better success. Justin Turner noted that during Wednesday’s game, the other batters watched Austin Barnes‘ at-bat against Brandon Woodruff. After Chris Taylor ripped a single then advanced to second on an overthrow and stole third, Barnes went to work to try to get him home. He had paid attention to what Woodruff was throwing in his previous AB, and was able to send a single up the middle to bring in Taylor. Seeing how Barnes attacked Woodruff, the other batters shortened up and were able to attack and produce base hits.
There have been quite a few swings in this NLCS where it looked like the Dodgers were swinging out of their shoes, hoping to knock one out of the park. Wednesday’s game seems to be a shift in thinking, and with it, brought the first win when the Dodgers had some breathing room going into the final innings.
On the flip side, the narrative before the NLCS was about how dominant the Brewers’ bullpen was, and how they would ride it to their own trip to the World Series. So far, it has been their bullpen that have given up most of the runs. The Dodgers have scored late in games, almost winning Game 1, and in winning Two, Four and Five. Pedro Baez, who was booed mercilessly previously in the season, has been absolutely lights out. Ryan Madson has been very good in tight games, although he did allow a run when the Dodgers had a four-run lead on Wednesday. Caleb Furgusen and Dylan Floro have been very good, and Kenley Jansen looks much more like the Kenley of Old.
The last two wins have been complete team efforts, with the stellar job by the bullpen in the Game 4 marathon, to the five runs being driven in by five different players in Wednesday’s game. If the Dodgers can win one of the next two games, and advance to the World Series again, they will need a total team effort to defeat whatever juggernaut comes out of the AL.