In the past five seasons, the Dodgers have gone a combined 473-337, good for a .583 winning percentage. They’ve won five consecutive division titles. Last season, they made it to the World Series, only to lose in disappointing fashion to the Houston Astros in the deciding Game 7 – a potential victory that would have marked the team’s first championship since 1988.
To put it simply: the Dodgers are talented. Coming into the 2018 season, they were stacked from top to bottom with talent; experts predicted them to be one of the best teams in the league. For the long-suffering fan base, it seemed to be the Dodgers’ turn to bask in World Series glory, just one season removed from their heartbreaking loss to end the 2017 season.
So it seemed.
On September 28, 2018, the Dodgers played Game 159, the first in a three game set to cap off the end of the regular season. Their opponents? The San Francisco Giants, who, though already eliminated from any chance at postseason play, will undoubtedly fight for any chance to prevent their longtime rivals from making it into the playoffs as well.
The Dodgers are 88-71, one game behind the upstart Colorado Rockies for the National League West division title. Winning the title would propel the Dodgers into the NLDS, where they would then face the currently 89-70 Atlanta Braves. Failing would either mean playing in the do-or-die wild card game – where a win means advancing into the playoffs and a loss the end of the season – or missing the postseason completely, depending on the success of the St. Louis Cardinals, a team also scrapping for a ticket to the playoffs.
Of course, simply making it into the postseason is no guarantee of the Dodgers’ success; while on paper, the team certainly appears talented, a key hit given up here or a strikeout there could mean the difference between victory and failure. At the end of the day, however, it’s clear that Dodgers fans would much rather have the chance to at least have their team in the postseason than not.
Nonetheless – this wasn’t supposed to happen. The Dodgers weren’t supposed to be fighting for a division title. They were supposed to make it into the postseason with ease, behind the arm of Clayton Kershaw and the bats of their world-beating lineup; the analytic minds of the front office and boatloads of cash to spare; manager Dave Roberts, who won Manager of the Year in his first season with the club and nearly led the Dodgers to a championship the second.
Yet they did. The team started off 16-26, the worst such start to a season since coming to L.A. They soon rebounded, but spent much of the summer battling the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies for supremacy over the division. They were inconsistent. They would score 21 runs one game and just 1 the next. Their bullpen constantly blew leads; their hitters would fail to drive in runs even with runners in scoring position. Although the Dodgers, on paper, looked much like the same team they were just a year prior, in reality they couldn’t be any more different.
But then something seemed to click. On September 24, the Dodgers won 7-4 in a comeback victory against the Arizona Diamondbacks, who had kept up with the Dodgers for much of the season but had skidded in September and were now nearly out of contention. They had won 10 of their last 12 games and were holding off the Rockies by 1.5 games in the division with just five left to play. All they needed to do was survive these last five games.
Game 159. Since September 24, the Rockies have won three straight. The Dodgers lost two. They have three chances left. Although successful in sweeping the Rockies, there is still the fight for the one wild card spot left.
Brandon Kim, Grade 10
Culver City High School