The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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Which Dodgers team will show up in the post-season?

The Dodgers clinched the National League West Division this past Tuesday in their 146th game of the season.  According to the Elias Sports Bureau only five teams since the Wild Card era had won their division title faster.  It’s the Dodgers’ seventh consecutive division title, reminiscent of the Atlanta Braves’ 11 straight championships from 1995 to 2005 and the New York Yankees’ string of nine from 1998-to 2006.  Despite their recent dominance, the Dodgers haven’t been able to bring home their first World Series ring since 1988.

The Dodgers have made two World Series appearances in the last two seasons.  They came close to a title in 2017 by going to the seventh game before bowing out against the Houston Astros, and then got blown out by the Boston Red Sox last season.

Los Angeles has been in first place in their division for practically this entire season.  In the “Year of the Home Run” in which all kinds of individual and team records have been set in the majors, the Dodgers have has been in the thick of the homer surge across both leagues.

They started their home run record-setting season with a record eight four-baggers on Opening Day.

Outfielder Cody Bellinger has been at the forefront of the Dodgers’ dominance in the National League for most home runs.  In his first eight games, he had six home runs and 16 RBI, tying Alex Rodriguez and Eddie Mathews for the most to start a season.  His 14th dinger before May 1 tied a record with Christian Yelich, Albert Pujols and A-Rod.  Bellinger had more home runs by the All-Star break than any Dodgers player before him, passing legendary players Duke Snider and Gil Hodges.  He was the first player in the majors to reach 40 homers.  He’s making a strong case for the league’s MVP Award.

In August, infielder Max Muncy had five consecutive games with a home run.  He’s on a pace to equal his 35 home runs last year.

In late April the Dodgers broke the major-league record for most consecutive games with a home run in their home ballpark (starting back in 2018).  By September 1 the Dodgers had broken their franchise record for home runs in a season.

Dodgers pitching has been equally as good this year.  Hyun-Jin Ryu stepped up his game in a big way after having a shortened season last year.  He leads the National League with an impressive 2.45 ERA, in a season in which the overall league average is 4.42.  Clayton Kershaw is putting in his usual type of regular season (14-5, 3.05 ERA, 1.052 WHIP) at age 31, while Walker Buehler has continued his emergence from last year as Kershaw’s eventual replacement as the ace of the staff.

The Dodgers currently lead the National League in ERA, WHIP, and ERA+ and are second in strikeouts per nine innings.  If there’s an Achilles heel on the team, it’s their relief pitching that has been prone to giving up leads in late innings.  Kenley Jansen, who’s been a lights-out closer in previous years, seems to have lost the magic of his cutter, previously his most successful pitch.  His effectiveness as the closer has been called into question, but manager Dave Roberts has been reluctant to take him out of the role.  Baseball analysts were puzzled when the Dodgers didn’t pull the trigger on acquiring bullpen help bullpen at the July 31 trade deadline.

Of course, Los Angeles didn’t have much competition in their division this year.  They’ve been in first place since April 16, unlike last year when they had to go to Game 163 with the Colorado Rockies before claiming the division title.

With two weeks left in the regular season, it looks like the Dodgers’ competition in the National League playoffs will be the Braves, Cardinals, Cubs, and Nationals.  The pitching of the Nationals and Cardinals pose the biggest threat to the Dodgers getting back to the World Series.

The Dodgers’ chances of winning the World Series are currently ranked higher than the American League’s two current favorites (Houston and New York), as rated by

Despite their favorable odds, the question remains as to which Dodgers team will show up in the post-season.  They’ve suffered a drought in the last six seasons with respect to getting a World Series ring.  They went seven games to defeat the Brewers in the NLCS last year, and then won only one game against Boston in the World Series.

The Dodgers hit a paltry .180 against some really good Red Sox pitching led by David Price, Joe Kelly, and Nathan Eovaldi.  Bellinger’s 1-for-16 performance at the plate in the Series followed another lackluster performance in the NLCS.  Late-season pick-up Manny Machado wasn’t much help either.

Clayton Kershaw’s mediocrity in the playoffs throughout his career has miserably continued in his two starts against the Red Sox last season.  The Dodgers’ bullpen couldn’t contain Boston’s offense in two sterling starts by Walker Buehler and Rich Hill.

One of the strengths of the current team is their versatility in creating various lineups to fit the competition.  Several of their players play multiple positions.  The team has also been able to bring up several rookies (Matt Beaty, Alex Verdugo, Will Smith, and Gavin Lux) who have been productive in filling in as injury replacements throughout the season.  An illustration of the lineup options they have occurred in a game this past week against the Orioles when only two Dodgers players were in the same position they were in on Opening Day.  They have the luxury of using the last two weeks of the season to get players healthy, give their regulars some rest, and figure out the roster that will give them the best chance in the post-season.

Can the Dodgers avoid a drop-off during this post-season? Can they steer clear of becoming known as the Buffalo Bills of Major League Baseball?  (Recall the Bills lost four straight Super Bowls in the early ‘90s.)

As a Yankees fan, I would personally like to see a renewal of the Yankees-Dodgers rivalry in the Fall Classic.  They competed in some legendary matchups during the late 1940s and early 1950s.  The last time they faced each other was in 1981, when the Dodgers defeated the Yankees after a strike-shortened regular season.  The time for Yankees revenge is long overdue.

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