Anyone watching the Dodgers during the National League Division Series against the previously high-flying and dreaded Arizona Diamondbacks saw something that had been missing from the Dodgers for several weeks, that amorphous, ineffable, ethereal, indescribable something that after weeks and weeks of magic, appeared to have been lost. Well, thanks primarily to Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Kenley Jansen, it is back!
Turner got the Dodgers off to an amazing start in the NLDS with his first inning three-run home run in game one, followed by his compiling hit after hit during the rest of the series, finishing with an amazing .464 batting average for the entire series. Other Dodgers hit incredibly well over the three games, especially including Austin Barnes and Yasiel Puig, but Bellinger’s overall play, despite his .214 average and “meager” three hits, was spectacular and was the real catalyst that seemed to ignite the spark. In game three he hit a key home run, but what really made the difference was his risking life and limb to first
make a spectacular catch as he tumbled head first over a railing into the far end of the dugout, and they making a great throw to start a double play. While Bellinger has made headlines for his amazing hitting stats throughout his rookie year, not everyone has realized his amazing all-around abilities, and how is is on the verge of being a five-tool star. Already he may well be the best defensive first baseman in the National League, and I expect to seem him win the Gold Glove year in and year out over the next decade. And, remember that with little experience he became a star outfielder as soon as he took his position first in left field and then in center. He could well be a Gold Glover in either of those positions as well. Finally don’t forget that he is an excellent baserunner and that the prevailing throught is that he is the fastest player on the team. During the regular season he stole 10 bases in 13 attempts, and his future as a base stealer appears that it will only be tempered by opportunity to attempt to steal.
So far through the playoffs, we’ve seen reliever after reliever fail to do their job. The D’Backs won the Wild Card game and got to the NLDS because the Rockies’ bullpen, including closer Greg Holland, failed to stop Arizona from scoring, basically at will. In the second game of the American League Division Series, the vaulted yankees bullpen of closer on top of closer could not protect a five-run Cleveland lead. In their Game 3, the Cubs bullpen blew a two-run lead in the bottom of the eighth, allowing the Nationals a five-run inning, and that was followed by their next game where it was the Nationals bullpen that allowed a seventh inning tying run followed by an eighth inning losing run to score. And so it went, game after game.
That is why seeing Kenley Jansen put away the Diamondbacks in the ninth inning yesterday was so vitally important. At least one of the network commentators during one of the past week’s games said that Jansen and the Red Sox’ Craig Kimbrel were baseball’s
two best closers. Well, in the final game of the ALDS that the Bosox lost to Houston, it was the ninth inning run that Kimbrel allowed that was in the end the wining run for Houston, and the final nail in the Red Sox 2017 coffin.
The Dodgers’ roster from top to bottom is the most talented in baseball, but any talented team needs a couple of those talented guys to step up and produce even over their norm for the team to win a championship. It could be Clayton Kershaw or Cory Seager in the National League Championship Series, or it may be no one and the Dodgers go down to defeat. But in the NLDS and as of now, the guys who are making their mark and leading the team are Turner, Bellinger and Jansen, and they could lead the Dodgers to the World Series and the team’s first championship since 1988.