Everybody knows what happened, so I'm not going to recap the series. I am however, going to highlight some things I found the most telling or important for the next series and what I'm most proud of the team for.
Many of the guys who performed so well in the regular season had pretty bad NLCS'. AJ Pollock, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May, Justin Turner, Chris Taylor, Blake Treinen (mixed) Clayton Kershaw, and Adam Kolarek, to name a few. These guys, all integral members of getting the Dodgers to the NLCS, didn't play well. Did it matter? No, because the other guys stepped up to help their teammates. While Corey Seager was red-hot the entire series, guys like Julio Urias Kiké Hernandez, Kenley Jansen, and Joc Pederson stepped up. When an overworked Treinen blew Game 1, the Dodgers didn't let it get them down. Similarly, Mookie Betts robbed Freeman of a home run off him and Justin Turner made a great defensive play to bail him out of an inherited jam. When Tony Gonsolin ran out of gas in Game 2, after not pitching in 17 days, after being the faithful pawn to the organization's plans and being incredibly flexible throughout the season, the Dodgers almost came back in the game and generated momentum for the series, making his effort not feel like a total waste. Kershaw, similarly, after being pushed too long in a Game 4 start after a back injury, as he constantly is, when Graterol couldn't get it done for him in relief, didn't despair. The Dodgers came roaring back in the series to win the next few games and bail out their ailing ace. In Game 7, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin, the two rookie righties, the dynamic duo, just didn't have it. May walked the first two batters of the game he was told he was starting that afternoon and then allowed an RBI single. While he buckled down to limit the damage to a run, the overworked righty didn't do what the Dodgers needed. Neither did Tony Gonsolin, uncharacteristically wild, who allowed two runs in two plus innings. No matter, here comes Blake Treinen along with Justin Turner's and Mookie Betts' defensive prowess to keep the game close. Kiké Hernandez later did what he so often does in the playoffs, launching a game tying homer. As soon as the men who carried this team to the brink faltered, the other guys stepped up. It was beautiful to witness.
Is momentum real? It sure feels that way. I think it really has to do with confidence that the players have after a big moment for their team. Whether it be a Betts defensive gem, a Seager nuke, or a Graterol strikeout and celebration, big moments get the dugout fired up and feeling confident, ready to pounce and play their best baseball, while the other team feels dejected and might be more prone to errors (basic baserunning, anybody?)
Defense! The Dodgers did it spectacularly this series, led by (who else?) Mookie Betts. In Games 5-7, he made an absurd play in right field to change the game. With the Braves on the precipice of running away with Game 5 and the pennant, Betts made a shoestring catch in right that got Ozuna to leave 3rd early in his attempt to sprint home before Betts could throw him out. Ozuna never tagged up, and it was an inning ending double play. He then robbed Ozuna of an RBI double by making a ridiculous catch up against the wall in Game 6 to keep the Braves from scoring and getting amped up. In Game 7, he robbed Freddie Freeman of a home run to give the Braves a two-run lead, instead keeping the game within easy reach for the Dodgers. Cody Bellinger made a great catch at the wall to rob Albies of an RBI double and Justin Turner capitalized on Austin Riley's hesitation to turn a rundown into a game-changing double play. It's the little things, but they probably won the Dodgers the series.
The bullpen. After buckling early in the series, they held leads in Games 5-7, helping the Dodgers complete the comeback. Kenley Jansen appears to have fixed something in his delivery, as his velocity's back up, his cutter is cutting, and he's inducing weak contact. He looks unhittable. Treinen looks worse when pitching on less rest, but he's incredibly dependable and has been the go-to guy for this team all year. Graterol and Baez, with the exception of one bad mop-up outing each, are dominant. Victor Gonzalez does his thing. This unit is a good one, and they are hot at the right time.
Walker Buehler's throwing strikes. While Buehler had been struggling mightily with walks this postseason due to blisters, threw like the ace we know he is in Game 6. 6 scoreless innings, emptying the tank but only throwing 89 pitches. He was hit a little bit more than usual, but he was untoucheable when it mattered and had his pin-point control. For the first time in months, he really looked like himself. For evidence of this, and to see how he buckled down with men on base, I suggest you watch the second inning.
Corey Seager was the NLCS MVP, and deservingly. Coming as no surprise, after the regular season he had, he hit 5 homers with 11 RBI, both Dodger postseason series records. The man is a beast.
Julio Urias is a freaking stud. Aside from a solo homer to Christian Pache, he's been nearly perfect this season. In 16 innings this postseason, he's giving up 1 earned run, on that homer. And boy, has he been CLUTCH. In Game 7 of the NLCS, with Roberts wanting to stay away from Jansen 3 days in a row, Kershaw not a good option on days rest, and the Dodgers already not having gotten as many outs from guys as they wanted, Urias got a 3 inning save to send the Dodgers to the World Series. Entering in a tie game and pitching the 8th and 9th with a lead, Urias was perfect. 9 up, 9 down. No strikeouts, but it didn't matter. He was eriley calm, just doing his thing, and casually leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to their 3rd World Series in 4 years.
This will probably not be an easy series. While Tampa's offense has been lacking, their pitching is the total opposite. Expect a low scoring series. There should be a lot of close games, but I expect the Dodgers to win them. They've shown us who they are in the NLCS. They can get it done
The Rays are tough. But the Dodgers are tougher.