By JENIBELLE HSU
As the National League Championship Series (NLCS) neared, baseball fans everywhere attempted to answer the age-old mystery: will the Chicago Cubs or the Los Angeles Dodgers reign supreme?
This question was finally answered on Thursday, Oct. 19. The Dodgers conquered the Cubs with an overall score of 4-1 in the NLCS, earning them a ticket to the World Series on Oct. 24. This achievement marked the end of the Dodgers’ consecutive 29-year World Series defeat, and redeemed the team after losing to the Cubs at last year’s NLCS.
However, the Dodgers encountered some hurdles as the season commenced. Most notably, Dodgers’ star shortstop Corey Seager could not play in this year’s NLCS due to a back injury. Moreover, pitcher Clayton Kershaw regressed as he entered the series with a 4.63 earned run average, a giant step backwards from his 2.36 mark in the regular season. Therefore, the Dodgers could not completely rely on him to create a powerful defense in the first game, and the weight of the team suddenly fell on less experienced players.
Despite these initial setbacks, the Dodgers’ incredible improvement shone the brightest in Game One. The team excelled in teamwork and diminished their reliance on their MVPs. In particular, Kershaw played for only five innings, leaving the rest of the game to relievers. Even without the fan favorite, no batter from the Cubs reached home base against the Dodgers bullpen in Game One. The Dodgers bullpen maintained their perfect record and did not allow a run in the entire series, while the Cubs allowed too many runs to count.
In addition, the Cubs may have faltered because they were unprepared to battle the bullpen due to their boosted confidence from recent victories. In short, the relievers’ collective efforts made the Dodgers a worthy opponent of the Cubs.
Unsurprisingly, the Dodgers sustained a 3-game victory streak, broken in Game Four but rekindled in Game Five. This achievement was the fruit of the players’ hard work. In Game Three, Chris Taylor hit the longest homer of the postseason so far, at 444 feet to the centerfield. The scene shifted to Enrique Hernandez in Game Five, who singlehandedly presented the Dodgers with a 10-point-lead, hitting three home runs and driving in seven runs. Accordingly, their performances demonstrated the players’ tremendous improvements throughout the season.
Fundamentally, each player’s contribution defines the Dodgers as we know it. Therefore, the batters’ resilience and gameplay reflected their potential to redeem themselves after last year’s defeat.
Ultimately, the Cubs’ last-minute decisions sabotaged their performance. During the sixth inning of Game One, Cubs manager Joe Maddens unexpectedly called pitcher Hector Rondon to the field, resulting in Dodgers’ Chris Taylor completing a home run and giving them the lead. In the next game, Madden fatefully brought in reliever John Lackey, who gave up a three-run homer to Justin Turner.
In essence, Madden failed to analyze each player’s strengths and weaknesses when organizing the lineup. As a result, these pitchers with specific skillsets were not experienced enough to strike out certain batters.
In the long run, these mistakes tallied up. Throughout the series, the Dodgers had something the Cubs lacked: an effective bullpen and persistent offense. The Dodgers succumbed as the underdog after last year’s loss but prevailed as the champion as one team with one goal: to win the World Series.