The buzz of victory swept through the visiting clubhouse, echoing off the walls and down the darkened corridors of Dodger Stadium.
Chatter and laughter filled the air. J. Cole’s “No Role Modelz” blared from a speaker. In a series colored with shades of October, the New York Yankees had conquered. To the beat of a triumphant anthem, they celebrated their way out of Chavez Ravine.
“That was a fun series,” Yankees slugger Aaron Judge said. “You could tell from the crowd. The fans were loving it, we were loving it. A lot of emotion.”
For New York, there was a lot of encouragement, too.
In taking two of three from Los Angeles, punctuating a potential World Series preview with a 5-1 win in Sunday’s rubber match, the Yankees beat the Dodgers at their own game.
Los Angeles entered the weekend with baseball’s best record largely because of their stellar starting pitching and powerful offense. Over the three games, the Yankees were better at both.
The Dodgers’ starters, including Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw, were tagged for 11 earned runs in 151/3 innings. The Yankees’ trio, none of whom began the series with an ERA south of 4.15, surrendered just five runs in 16 2/3 innings.
“I was very excited to pitch here,” New York’s Sunday starter Domingo German said through an interpreter, his only blemish in a six-inning, one-run gem coming on a leadoff home run by Joc Pederson. “It was my first time pitching here. I wanted to enjoy it and cherish the moment.”
Los Angeles couldn’t match New York’s explosiveness either, jacking just two home runs to the Yankees’ nine. It was the most long balls the Dodgers have allowed in a series. New York broke a single-month team home run record in the process.
“Bronx bombers,” Judge declared, beaming after hitting a big fly each of the three days. “I don’t know what else to say.”
In the visiting manager’s office, Aaron Boone also wore a look of satisfaction. The USC graduate, who visited with the Trojans football team during the trip, had a “Fight On” lanyard looped around his neck as he leaned back in his chair. On the wooden desk in front of him, a creased roster card displayed the names of a lineup that came to life in perhaps its most important series of the year.
“Guys were excited to come and play here against a great team in a great venue,” Boone said. “I thought the guys really performed and delivered all weekend.”
Unlike Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who downplayed the matchup before the game by saying, “As far as what that means for a potential matchup, I wouldn’t put a lot of importance,” Boone’s calculation wasn’t so cautious. Though the games that really matter are still weeks away, there was something telling about the Yankees’ triumph.
“We all, if we’re being honest, looked forward to this series,” Boone said. “We knew all the eyeballs [would be on us]. … Even though it’s regular season, it felt big.”
In the jubilant clubhouse, Judge agreed.
“That’s the best team in the National League,” he said. “This was a big matchup for us.”
The Yankees wouldn’t mind playing it again this postseason either. As the team danced out the door, utility player Tyler Wade stopped to shake hands with the Dodger Stadium clubhouse attendant.
“See you in October,” the stadium worker said.
“Yes sir,” Wade answered with a grin.
When Judge was asked if he’d welcome a rematch in the Fall Classic, he too cracked a smile, emboldened by success in a mid-August series that felt like so much more.
“If it lines up that way,” he said, “yeah.”