Back in August, I wrote about how a healthy Matt Kemp would be the final piece to the Dodgers' World Series run. And when he finally returned in mid-September with 11 hits in his first 28 at-bats, including three doubles and a homer, that final piece to an already strong team appeared to have arrived.
But it wasn't meant to be. A recurring ankle injury forced the 29-year-old out of action for the remainder of the season and playoffs.
Should we be surprised? I had them winning the division in my preseason NL West preview, and so did many others. But they looked like anything but contenders after a June 21 loss to the Padres, which dropped their record to 30-42.
They were in last place and 9.5 games back of the division-leading Diamondbacks. Nearly four months later, they've gone 65-29 and are eight wins away from a championship.
So, how did they go from cellar-dwellers with a manager and general manager on the hot seat to World Series favorites?
As easy as it is to point to rookie Yasiel Puig's call-up, it's been so much more than that. While Puig may have been the necessary spark, the Dodgers have gotten to this point with an all-around team effort.
Here's a look at the five keys that have the Dodgers closing in on their first World Series title since 1988.