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Dodgers Dugout: On to the World Series

Justin Turner tags out Dansby Swanson to start double play in the fourth inning in Game 7 of the NLCS.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and I tell you, there’s something different about this year’s team.

Some random Game 7 thoughts:

—See, I told you the Dodgers would win the series.

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—The most important question: Can I change my shirt now or do I have to keep wearing it today and throughout the World Series?

—A handful of readers emailed after the Dodgers fell behind in the series, 3-1, to say they were throwing in the towel, that this team is gutless and a bunch of chokers and that they weren’t going to watch anymore. They sure missed a heck of a series.

—Baseball is designed to break your heart. But it also has moments where it helps you forget the difficult times you are going through, if you stick with it. The joy outweighs and outlasts the pain.

—No matter what has happened in the ensuing years, the 1988 World Series is a joy in my heart. Being at Game 2 with my dad, who died a couple of years later, is one of my fondest memories. And if they win the World Series this year, my daughters will have that memory that will stay with them forever. That’s why you stick with your team. The joy outlasts the pain. That’s why I get mad at those who email that they think the team is worthless, or chokers, or that you are going to stop being a fan. Get frustrated? Sure. But to give up? Then why be a fan at all? The joy will erase the pain. And eventually there will be joy.

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—I single-handedly kept the makers of Tums in business during this series.

—People ask me why Justin Turner is so popular. That dive to tag Dansby Swanson and then immediately pivoting while sitting to throw out Austin Riley at third is why.

—Of course, Mookie Betts with his defense and joy for the game is rapidly rocketing up the list of most popular Dodgers.

—Why did the Red Sox trade Betts again?

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—And what about Kiké Hernández? He’s a guy who rises to the occasion.

—Let’s look at some Hernandez career numbers:

During regular season: .240/.313/.425

During postseason: .214/.328/.455

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His walks and power go up in the postseason, and he has eight homers in 52 postseason games.

—Braves fans have to be sitting at home today wondering what the Braves runners were thinking in the fourth inning. Swanson trying to score on a hard grounder back to third, and then Riley not advancing to third on the same play? It was shades of J.D. Drew and Jeff Kent in the 2006 NLDS.

—That killed any momentum the Braves had.

—If an Atlanta player had strutted to first after a homer the way Cody Bellinger did, it would have been infuriating. But for some reason it didn’t really bother me when Bellinger did it.

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—The Braves made the mental errors in this series, and the Dodgers took advantage. Dodgers fans are used to it being the other way around.

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—The Dodgers stranded so many men on base, it looked like they were going to blow their chance to win. But their offensive approach of patience and waiting for the pitcher to make a mistake worked. It’s an infuriating strategy when it doesn’t work, but when it works, it’s great.

—Why did Dustin May start the game? First, keep in mind that Dave Roberts doesn’t decide who is going to start. He has input, yes, but the front office looks at all their flow charts, their crystal balls, their sabermetrics, their Tarot cards, their performance metrics, their Magic 8 Ball and decide who will start. The idea was that May would start, face Acuna-Freeman-Ozuna-d’Arnaud the top three or four in the lineup, then you bring Tony Gonsolin in and he can hopefully pitch five innings only facing those four once.

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—Of course, it turned out May and Gonsolin were the two worst pitchers of the night for the Dodgers.

—What can be said about Julio Urías? Did no one tell him this was a Game 7?

—Urías has pitched in four postseason games this year. He got the victory in each game.

—It was nice to see Roberts stick with Urías in the ninth inning. In years past, we would see Kenley Jansen or Clayton Kershaw.

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—Seven games in seven days was a boon for the Dodgers, since it allowed their bullpen depth to shine through. The Braves have a good bullpen, but they weren’t quite as deep.

—Atlanta has a really good team and this was a really entertaining series. I said before the playoffs that the Dodgers and the Padres were the two best teams in the NL. I was wrong. It’s the Dodgers and Braves.

—For the World Series, it’s back to a normal schedule of Game 1 and 2, day off, Game 3-4-5, day off, Game 6 and 7.

Joe Davis almost went into Dodgers announcer mode when Bellinger hit that homer, but pulled it back in nicely.

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John Smoltz never says in five words what he can say in 50. But, he does make some great points. Yes, you can tell he leans toward Atlanta, but I believe he has made a great effort at being fair to both teams.

—Can the NFL play a game every day during the World Series so we can keep the Davis-Smoltz team? (Yes, I like to pick on Joe Buck).

—Now on to the World Series. Don’t think the Tampa Bay Rays will be pushovers, because they won’t be. But we can talk about that tomorrow.

—It’s hard to think along with the Dodger brain trust, but you have to figure Kershaw in Game 1, right?

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—Can we nitpick over certain things that happened in Game 7? Sure. But for once, just enjoy a victory.

—Email comments to me have really picked up during the playoffs. I get well over 300 emails a day. I love it. But it makes it nearly impossible to respond to them all. So if I don’t respond to you, please forgive me and understand. I do read all of them and appreciate everyone who takes the time to write. This is as much your newsletter as it is mine, and I try to never forget that.

Award winners

Dodgers who have won the NLCS MVP award:

1977: Dusty Baker, .357 batting average, two homers, eight RBIs

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1978: Steve Garvey, .389, four homers, seven RBIs

1981: Burt Hooton, 2-0, 0.00 ERA in 14.2 innings

1988: Orel Hershiser, 1-0, 1 save, 1.09 ERA in 24.2 innings

2017: Justin Turner, .333, two homers, seven RBIs

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2017: Chris Taylor, .316, two homers, three RBIs

2018: Cody Bellinger, .200, one homer, four RBIs

2020: Corey Seager, .310, five homers, 11 RBIs

Note: NLCS MVP award was first handed out in 1977.

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Dodgers-Braves schedule

Game 1: Atlanta 5, Dodgers 1

Game 2: Atlanta 8, Dodgers 7

Game 3: Dodgers 15, Atlanta 3

Game 4: Atlanta 10, Dodgers 2

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Game 5: Dodgers 7, Atlanta 3

Game 6: Dodgers 3, Atlanta 1

Game 7: Dodgers 4, Atlanta 3

Dodgers-Rays World Series schedule

All times Pacific
Dodgers are home team for Game 1, 2, 6 and 7
All games at Arlington, Texas

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Game 1: Tuesday, Tampa Bay vs. Dodgers, 5 p.m., Fox
Game 2: Wednesday, Tampa Bay vs. Dodgers, 5 p.m., Fox
Game 3: Friday, Dodgers vs. Tampa Bay, 5 p.m., Fox
Game 4: Saturday, Dodgers vs. Tampa Bay, 5 p.m., Fox
Game 5*: Sunday, Dodgers vs. Tampa Bay, 5 p.m., Fox
Game 6*: Tuesday, Oct. 27, Tampa Bay vs. Dodgers, 5 p.m., Fox
Game 7*: Wed., Oct. 28, Tampa Bay vs. Dodgers, 5 p.m., Fox

*-if necessary

In case you missed it

Bill Plaschke: Dodgers go from October madness to magic and punch their World Series ticket

Dylan Hernández: From child prodigy to Game 7 stalwart, Julio Urías etches his name in Dodgers lore

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Dodgers’ Kiké Hernández shows he can bash with the best in Game 7 win over Braves

Justin Turner’s Superman play crucial for Dodgers in NLCS Game 7 win

Photos: Dodgers defeat Braves in NLCS Game 7

Dodgers and Braves should be among elite National League teams for years

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And finally

Cody Bellinger hits a mammoth Game 7 homer. Watch it here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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