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Postseason Dodgers Faceplant Becoming Annual SoCal Tradition

Postseason Dodgers Faceplant Becoming Annual SoCal Tradition

Los Angeles Dodgers' Max Muncy (13) reacts after a foul tip was caught by Arizona Diamondbacks catcher Gabriel Moreno, left, during the fourth inning in Game 3 of a baseball NL Division Series in Phoenix on Oct. 11, 2023. (Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo)

Dan Wood

Dan Wood

10/12/2023

Updated: 12/29/2023

Just as splendid fall colors are a famous New England tradition, October meltdowns by the Los Angeles Dodgers have become a rite of autumn in Southern California.
Regular-season beasts for more than a decade, the Dodgers crashed and burned in the postseason again this year, being swept out of a National League Division Series by the upstart Arizona Diamondbacks with a 4–2 loss Oct. 11 at Chase Field in Phoenix.
Winners of at least 100 games in each of the past four full regular seasons—the first team in Major League Baseball history to accomplish such a feat—the Dodgers’ latest postseason folly lasted all of five days. The only reason it took that long was an unusual schedule that called for off days between games.
“There are not a lot of words, other than hurt, disappointed, frustrated, and a little bit embarrassed,” utility man Kike Hernandez told reporters in a subdued Dodgers clubhouse.
The Dodgers finished 16 games ahead of 84-win Arizona on the way to their 10th National League West division title in the past 11 seasons, and yet failed to beat the Diamondbacks even once when it mattered most.
It was an uncanny repeat of last year, when the Dodgers outdistanced division rival San Diego by 22 games in the regular season but lost to the Padres in four games in a National League Division Series. Two years ago, the Dodgers were 18 games better than Atlanta during the regular season, only to fall to the Braves in six games in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series.
Mookie Betts (50) of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts as he slides under the tag from Jake Rogers (34) of the Detroit Tigers, to score the game winning run for a 3–2 win during the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Sept. 19, 2023. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Mookie Betts (50) of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts as he slides under the tag from Jake Rogers (34) of the Detroit Tigers, to score the game winning run for a 3–2 win during the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Sept. 19, 2023. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Those three results, in each of the past three years, rank among the six largest postseason upsets in Major League Baseball history when based on regular-season victory differential.
“I have to do a better job of figuring out a way to get our guys prepared for the postseason. I’ll own that,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said during his post-game media session. “We have great players. The regular season, I think we do a great job, but the last couple postseasons, it just hasn’t gone well for us. I have to figure it out.”
The Dodgers’ two leading stars, first baseman Freddie Freeman and versatile outfielder-infielder Mookie Betts, went a combined 1–for–21 at the plate against Arizona. In the process, Freeman and Betts transformed from most valuable player candidates to poster boys for a high-powered regular-season offense that went ice cold once the calendar turned to October.
Diamondbacks pitchers held the Dodgers to a .177 team batting average and only six runs, two in each game. Betts, Freeman, Max Muncy and J.D. Martinez, the first foursome in Dodgers history to each collect more than 100 runs batted in during a regular season, combined to drive in one run during the playoffs.
Remarkably, the anemic offense, which never produced a lead in the series, wasn’t even the Dodgers’ biggest problem.
Starting pitching, the team’s hallmark from its time in Brooklyn right on through the Los Angeles glory days featuring luminaries such as Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Fernando Valenzuela, and Orel Hershiser, was historically bad.
Manager Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers relieves Clayton Kershaw (22) in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks during Game One of the Division Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Oct. 7, 2023. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Manager Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers relieves Clayton Kershaw (22) in the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks during Game One of the Division Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Oct. 7, 2023. (Harry How/Getty Images)

Erstwhile ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw—who did not escape the first inning in an 11–2, series-opening loss—rookie Bobby Miller, and recycled journeyman Lance Lynn combined to give up 13 runs while completing only 4 2/3 innings, the fewest by starting pitchers in the first three games of a postseason series in Major League history.
In the clinching game, Lynn surrendered a postseason-record four home runs in the third inning.
“Disappointing, no matter how it ends, if you don’t win the whole thing,” said Kershaw, who was in line to start again had the Dodgers pushed the series to a fourth game. “This one hurts a lot just because of how it went down. Obviously, it’s a horrible way to end it personally, but that’s ultimately not important. It’s just how I didn’t help the team win the series. That’s the most disappointing part, letting your guys down.”
Kershaw, a sure-fire Hall of Fame selection down the road, is set to turn 36 during spring training in March. Hampered in recent years by myriad physical challenges, including a shoulder injury that cost him six weeks and severely limited his stamina down the stretch this season, he repeatedly deflected questions about his baseball future after Game 3.
In the end, despite their well-earned reputation for player development and seemingly bottomless financial resources to acquire proven veterans, even the Dodgers couldn’t withstand a series of injuries and other pitching-staff attrition. They lost starters Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin to elbow surgeries, and Walker Buehler’s recovery from a second career Tommy John surgery precluded him from making a hoped-for return this season.
Julio Urias (7) of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during the first inning of a game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park in San Diego on May 7, 2023. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Julio Urias (7) of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches during the first inning of a game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park in San Diego on May 7, 2023. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

While May, Gonsolin, and Buehler face uncertainty going forward, left-hander Julio Urias’ time with the Dodgers is almost certainly over following his early September arrest on felony domestic violence charges. All of that doesn’t even account for former Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer, who might still be atop the club’s rotation if not for 2021 sexual-assault charges that derailed his career.
Despite having seen their team make 11 consecutive post-season appearances, the third-longest such run in big-league history, Dodgers owner and chairman Mark Walter, president and chief executive officer Stan Kasten, and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman have overseen just one World Series championship. And even that came with something of an asterisk, following a 2020 season shortened to 60 games because of the pandemic.
“It’s hard to find words right now,” Freeman told reporters after Game 3. “Frustrating. Me and a lot of us didn’t play the way we wanted.”
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Dan Wood

Dan Wood

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Dan Wood is a community sports reporter based in Orange County, California. He has covered sports professionally for some 43 years, spending nearly three decades in the newspaper industry and 14 years in radio. He is an avid music fan, with a strong lean toward country and classic rock.

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