Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Monday, October 1, 2018

2018 Division Champions

It took 163 games.  It required a full allotment of 40 players on the roster in the end and the team playing essentially a brand of playoff baseball their final five weeks of the season. But the Dodgers did it, and what they accomplished over their final 35 games showed the makings of a championship ball club.
The Dodgers celebrate their 6th straight NL West Division Title (AP Photo by Jae C. Hong)

Finishing 25-10 during the stretch run, including going 6-1 over their division rival Colorado Rockies in the month of September, the Dodgers came out on top.  And just barely at that too.  Colorado played lights out baseball against every team EXCEPT the Dodgers, and that proved to cost them the division.

This was a Dodger team with deficiencies when hitting with runners in scoring position.  This was a team that didn’t perform well in one-run games.  Los Angeles’ bullpen showed some vulnerabilities as well.  This team had only one starter with double digit victories, and it was a ball club that rarely fielded the same lineup each night.  But they overcame it all and were still able to win  the division flag in what might be remembered for years to come.  

Consider this: runner-up Colorado won eight straight after being practically left for dead in a Dodger Stadium sweep from Sept. 17-19th.   With the Dodgers playing a respectable 10-3 over their final 13 games in the schedule, a resurgent and scalding hot Rockies team caught them (and briefly overcame them) in the standings.

With the Dodgers trailing the Rockies in the standings by one game heading into their final series at San Francisco, the whole situation seemed like a recipe for disaster, as many Dodger fans simply hoped for a wild-card birth.  The Dodgers have a history of failing against their hated rivals, especially in San Francisco. I have to admit, it didn’t look good.  I had tickets to the first San Francisco game on Friday against a a fired up Madison Bumgarner.  The Giants ace asked his manager to hold him back a game, giving him the start against the Dodgers in the start of the season's final series.

L.A. held serve.  Battling against the lefty as their own southpaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, outpitched him in a 3-1 victory.  What was I to do?  Two games left, the Dodgers still down 1 game in the standings.  I purchased a ticket to the second game.  The Dodgers won again in a 10-6 slugfest, catching Colorado who finally lost a game at home against Washington.

Entering game 162 in a dead heat tie with Colorado, the Dodgers decided to pull Walker Buehler from starting the series finale, to hold him back for a potential one-game playoff or possible wild card game start.  Rich Hill would start, and I would buy a ticket to the last game.

Chris Taylor is congratulated after scoring the first run in the Dodgers' 15-0 win on Sunday. (USA Today photo)

What a performance it was.  With their backs against the wall, the Dodgers destroyed San Francisco 15-0 in an epic and memorable season finish.  Hill was stellar and the offense completely superb.  The Rockies were up to the task on Sunday as well, demolishing the Nationals in their home finale 12-0 to set up today's game # 163 at Dodger Stadium.

Such was the back-drop before today's historic one-game playoff.  With some trepidation, Dodger fans watched today's game recalling Dodger history reminding them of heartbreaking playoff losses in 1980, 1962 and even 1951.  Today, October 1, 2018, was different.

Winning as they have all year, with the home run, the Dodgers took game # 163 with a 5-2 victory, backed by an ace-like pitching performance by Walker Buehler and a pair of two-run homers, one each by Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy.  Buehler took a one-hitter into the 7th before being lifted with a five-run lead.

Today's win was huge for a number of reasons.

1) A loss meant a wild-card play-in game as a visitor in Chicago.  Facing Jon Lester on the road would have been a very tough chore.
2) The ball club gets two days off to set the pitching order in place and rest up after a rigorous stretch run.
3) They clinched a home field advantage in the first series, and against all teams except Milwaukee.
4) They remain at home through Friday night while others are all traveling, a huge advantage.
5)  Their first opponent, Atlanta, is a young and inexperienced team, completely beatable.  Facing Milwaukee initially would be facing a team even hotter that the Dodgers.

So October baseball has begun.  Eleven wins will be required.  Last year's team went 10-4 in post season play, one game short of the brass ring.  The Dodgers know that there is one thing on their minds and that is winning the whole thing.

 On San Francisco radio this morning, former Giant pitcher and current broadcaster Mike Krukow, one who is usually reluctant to spread praise on the Dodgers, did just that.

"They're the best team in the National league.  Their offense is hitting it's stride.  We just finished a series against probably the best team in baseball.  15-0 tells you that."