In 2021 the Los Angeles Dodgers tied a franchise record for victories (106). They had the largest run differential in the majors by 59 runs. They won 16 more games, and outscored their opponents by 225 more runs, than the St. Louis Cardinals, their foe in Wednesday night’s play-in wildcard game. They have won their last 15 games in Dodger Stadium, site of the play-in game.
They are a wrecking ball.
On a Los Angeles radio show Monday evening, former Dodger great and TV analyst Orel Hershiser left no doubt about his belief that the Dodgers will dominate any five- or seven-game series. But a one-game wildcard that stands between Los Angeles and those five- and seven-game series? That, Hershiser explained, is where the baseball gods—or randomness if you’re an atheist about these things—get to meddling. Even the worst baseball teams defeat the best ones several times a season.
The matchup against the Cardinals is the first play-in game for the Dodgers since 1980 and the 17th winner-take-all game in franchise history, the last being Game 7 of the 2020 NLCS against the Atlanta Braves. Their success rate in those games is a telling one, and re-enforces Hershiser’s point.
Fernandomania @ 40
Join us for the in-person 'Fernandomania @ 40' Finale event
We invite you to the exclusive finale celebration of ‘Fernandomania @ 40,’ our multi-episode documentary series that examines Fernando Valenzuela’s impact on the Dodgers, Major League Baseball and the Latino community in Los Angeles.
Join us Monday, Oct. 4 at the Montalbán Theater in Hollywood for screenings, and discussions with the stars of the documentary, including Ray Lara, Gloria Molina, Richard Montoya and Jaime Jarrín
Buy your tickets here.
ESPN Deportes is the sponsor for this event.
1951 tiebreaker series
New York Giants 5, Brooklyn Dodgers 4
Small forests have been felled in the telling and re-telling of the Most Famous Tiebreaker Game of Them All (Sorry, ‘78 Red Sox-Yankees). After the Dodgers smoked the Giants 10-0 in Game 2, they took a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 3. Whitey Lockman’s RBI double chased Dodgers starter Don Newcombe, who was replaced by Ralph Branca with the Dodgers holding a 4-2 lead. The first batter he faced was Bobby Thomson (who in Game 1 hit a much-less-famous, game-deciding homer off Branca). You know the rest.
1952 World Series
New York Yankees 4, Brooklyn Dodgers 2
The first of three seven-game World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees in the ‘50s. With Brooklyn up 3-2 in the Series and returning home to Ebbets Field for Games 6 and 7, Mickey Mantle hit solo homers that were the difference in each game, spoiling an epic performance from Duke Snider, who hit a then-record four homers in the Series.
1955 World Series
Brooklyn Dodgers 2, New York Yankees 0
In the first of consecutive World Series between the Dodgers and Yankees that went the distance, the Bronx Bombers took the first two games in Yankee Stadium — Game 1 famously included Jackie Robinson’s straight steal of home in New York’s 6-5 victory — before the Dodgers won the next three at Ebbets Field. The Yankees won Game 6 behind Whitey Ford, who got the run support he needed in the first, when New York scored all five of its runs. Johnny Podres pitched an eight-hit shutout in Game 7 that delivered the Dodgers their first World Series championship and Podres, at year’s end, Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year award.
1956 World Series
New York Yankees 9, Brooklyn Dodgers 0
This seven-game classic will be best remembered not for the winner-take-all Game 7, but rather for Game 5, in which Don Larsen spun the first, and still only, perfect game in World Series history. The Dodgers rebounded in Game 6 behind a 10-inning shutout by Clem Labine, who got the win when Jackie Robinson drove home Jim Gilliam with a walk-off single. The Yankees, however, hit four home runs, including two by Series MVP Yogi Berra, in the Game 7 rout.
1962 tiebreaker series
San Francisco Giants 6, Los Angeles Dodgers 4
Now both on the West Coast, the two archrivals reprised the drama of their 1951 tiebreaker series with another classic. Again in the clincher, the Dodgers — who had forced Game 3 with a walk-off victory on a Ron Fairly sacrifice fly the previous day — held a ninth-inning lead but were unable to hold on. Four walks in the top of the ninth, including the go-ahead, bases-loaded walk to Jim Davenport, was Los Angeles’ undoing.
1965 World Series
Los Angeles Dodgers 2, Minnesota Twins 0
In what would be his penultimate postseason, Sandy Koufax, making his third start of the Series, struck out 10 in a three-hit shutout. The Dodgers scored both runs in the fourth inning, on a Lou Johnson homer and a Wes Parker triple. Koufax was named the Series MVP for the second time in three years, yielding one earned run in 24 innings and striking out 29. He pitched Game 7 on two days’ rest.
1980 tiebreaker game
Houston Astros 7, Los Angeles Dodgers 1
Facing elimination in each of the three home games against the division-leading Astros, the Dodgers swept the season-ending series, winning each game by one run, to force a play-in game Monday at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles nearly had been eliminated in the first game of the series. Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers tied the game on a Ron Cey sacrifice fly and won it in the 10th on a leadoff homer by Joe Ferguson. The tiebreaker was far less dramatic: Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda went with Dave Goltz and the game was over by the fourth inning, when Houston took a 7-0 lead.
Los Angeles Dodgers 4, Houston Astros 0
One year later, the Dodgers turned the tables on the Astros. After scoring a single run and falling behind 2-0 in a divisional playoff created by that summer’s strike, Los Angeles held the Astros to two runs over the next three games to advance to the NLCS, where the elimination drama would escalate.
Los Angeles Dodgers 2, Montreal Expos 1
Down 2-1 in the series and on the road in Montreal, the Dodgers broke open a 1-1 Game 4 with six runs over the final two innings to force a frigid Game 5 at Olympic Stadium (the finale was delayed a day because of a snow postponement). This game, too, was a 1-1 pitchers duel, between rookie Fernando Valenzuela and Ray Burris. Both managers turned to frontline starters in the ninth, with the Expos’ Dick Williams going to ace Steve Rogers, who surrendered a home run to Rick Monday in the top of the inning. After back-to-back, two-out walks issued by Valenzuela in the bottom half, manager Tom Lasorda turned to Bob Welch, who induced a groundout to deliver the Dodgers to their third World Series in five years.
Los Angeles Dodgers 6, New York Mets 0
The most memorable result in this seven-game series was not an elimination game: Trailing 4-2 and down to their last out in Game 4, the Dodgers tied the score on a Mike Scioscia homer off Dwight Gooden, then won the game in the 12th on Kirk Gibson’s second-most-famous homer that postseason. After David Cone shut down the Dodgers in Game 6 at Dodger Stadium, Orel Hershiser — in the midst of a historic finish to the season — went the distance in the franchise’s first-ever NLCS Game 7.
New York Mets 3, Los Angeles Dodgers 2
Clayton Kershaw pitched seven strong innings and Justin Turner’s two-run single highlighted a three-run third inning for the Dodgers, who avoided elimination at CitiField in Game 4. Back home for the winner-take-all game, the Dodgers took a 2-1 first-inning lead, but runs in the fourth and sixth innings lifted the Mets to the series win.
Los Angeles Dodgers 4, Washington Nationals 3
A Joc Pederson home run to lead off the seventh inning tied the score 1-1 and forced Nationals starter Max Scherzer from the mound. The Dodgers added three runs off three Nationals relievers in the seventh to take a 4-1 lead that was cut to 4-3 in the bottom of the inning. Kenley Jensen came on in the seventh, getting out of a bases-loaded mess, and pitched into the ninth, when he was lifted for Clayton Kershaw after walking two batters. Kershaw retired both batters he faced for the save.
2017 World Series
Houston Astros 5, Los Angeles Dodgers 1
Three nights earlier, all hell broke loose in Houston to send the Dodgers to the brink of elimination. The 13-12 Astros win in Game 5 included seven home runs, five by Houston; another early postseason exit by Clayton Kershaw; two squandered L.A. leads of at least three runs; a three-run ninth-inning lead squandered by the Houston bullpen; and, of course, trash cans. Game 6, back in Dodger Stadium, was a much crisper affair, with L.A. beating Astros ace Justin Verlander behind Rich Hill and four relievers, the last of which was Kenley Jansen, who retired the final six Astros in order.
The Astros opened an early lead in Game 7, scoring two runs in the first inning and three in the second off Yu Darvish, the last two runs coming on George Springer’s fifth home run of the Series. The Dodgers — playing their first World Series Game 7 since 1965 — were held to six hits, scoring on a sixth-inning single by Andre Ethier. The story of this Fall Classic, we eventually learned, was only beginning.
Los Angeles Dodgers 5, Milwaukee Brewers 1
After the Brewers forced a seventh game with an easy Game 6 victory, the Dodgers closed out their second consecutive NL pennant by scoring all five of their runs on homers, a Cody Bellinger two-run shot in the second and a three-run blast by Yasiel Puig in the sixth. For the first time since 1977-78, the Dodgers were headed to consecutive Fall Classics.
Washington Nationals 7, Los Angeles Dodgers 3
The Dodgers appeared headed for a fourth straight NLCS when they took a 3-1 lead into the eighth with Clayton Kershaw on the mound. Kershaw, who had come on in relief of Walker Buehler to get out of a seventh-inning jam, allowed back-to-back homers to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto to lead off the eighth, paving the way for Howie Kendrick’s grand slam in the 10th off Joe Kelly to end Los Angeles’ season.
Los Angeles Dodgers 4, Atlanta Braves 3
Never had the Dodgers come back from a 3-1 postseason deficit — until 2020. Corey Seager, the eventual NLCS MVP, supplied the offense in Games 5 and 6, hitting three homers. In the clincher the Dodgers trailed 3-2 in the sixth when Kiké Hernández tied the score with a homer. Cody Bellinger’s solo shot in the seventh broke the tie and Julio Urías continued an excellent postseason by retiring all nine Braves he faced to send the Dodgers back to the World Series.