X

Dodgers' Dream Season Could End with Nightmare Finale After Nats Take Game 4

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistOctober 8, 2019

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw walks in the dugout after leaving the during the sixth inning in Game 2 of the baseball team's National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Dodgers won 106 games in 2019. They've won seven straight National League West titles and two consecutive pennants. It's a run of dominance like few in the modern MLB era.

Except for one thing: During that span, the Dodgers have never hoisted a Commissioner's Trophy. In fact, they haven't won a title since 1988, in the waning days of the Ronald Reagan administration.

Now, after Monday's Game 4 loss to the Washington Nationals in their division series, the Dodgers are on the brink of having another potential dream season turn into a recurring nightmare.

The Nationals didn't merely win in front of an appreciative home crowd in the nation's capital. They poured it on, breaking a 1-1 tie with four runs in the fifth inning, highlighted by a three-run homer by veteran Ryan Zimmerman off reliever Pedro Baez.

The Nats added an insurance run in the sixth inning; ace Max Scherzer twirled seven innings of one-run, seven-strikeout ball; the bullpen made it stand up; and Washington rolled to a 6-1 victory.

With that, the Dodgers limped back to Southern California facing a must-win Game 5.

They'll rely on the 25-year-old Walker Buehler, who threw six shutout innings, allowing one hit, with eight strikeouts in the Dodgers' 6-0 Game 1 victory. The Nationals will counter with Stephen Strasburg, who allowed one earned run and struck out 10 in the Nationals' 4-2 Game 2 triumph.

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Don't be surprised if Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw and Nationals southpaw Patrick Corbin enter the fray. And don't rule out the possibility of Scherzer's throwing on one day's rest after he struck out three in a gritty one-inning relief appearance in Game 2.

Both Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and Nationals skipper Dave Martinez should, and surely will, pull out all the stops. Forget looking ahead to the National League Championship Series. This is win or go home. No viable option left untried.

In 2016, L.A. faced this same scenario against Washington. The Dodgers won, 4-3, with Kershaw nailing down a dramatic two-out save with two runners on.

Since then, Los Angeles has played two Game 7s and split them, losing in the 2017 World Series to the Houston Astros and prevailing against the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2018 NLCS.

Again, though, that pales in comparison to one number: zero.

As in, zero titles for three decades and counting.

"I think top to bottom it's the best team we've had," Roberts said prior to the NLDS, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. "The most important part of it is, you still have to go out there and win baseball games and play good baseball.

"But," he added, "I do think the experiences, the failures as far as getting to the World Series and not finishing, I think that's at the forefront of all of our minds as far as the carrot out there, the focus."

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 07: Manager Dave Roberts walks to the mound during a pitching change in the fifth inning of game four of the National League Division Series against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on October 07, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Rob Carr/Getty Images

In Game 5, that carrot could turn into a stick that once again bludgeons the Dodgers' lofty aspirations into autumn dust.

All the regular-season success, all the impressive output from their deep lineup and loaded pitching staff...none of it will mean a thing without that ring. As Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com noted, Los Angeles is already the first team in history to advance to six consecutive postseasons without winning it all.

Sure, with their large budget, talent-laden roster and solid farm system, there's no reason to assume the Dodgers won't be back in October next season and in perpetuity. There are no guarantees, however. Kershaw, once seemingly immortal, will be 32 next year and could be entering the end of his prime.

Others, such as 24-year-old slugger Cody Bellinger, are just getting started. Still, no window remains open forever.

Every chance L.A. squanders to bathe in champagne and confetti is one chance it'll never get back. Game 5 is Wednesday at Chavez Ravine.

No pressure, gentlemen.

   

All statistics accurate through Monday and courtesy of Baseball Reference.