Column: Power hitting? Solid relievers? These aren’t your father’s Dodgers

Justin Turner

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner makes a catch on a foul ball hit by the Nationals' Stephen Drew in the eighth inning.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers played Friday night how they played the entire season.

It was unconventional.

It was scary at times.

You know what else it was?


It was working.

Evidently, the hocus pocus Manager Dave Roberts used to navigate a 162-game schedule can be effective in October.

How the Dodgers earned a 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals in the opening game of their National League Division Series marked a striking departure from their long-standing franchise blueprint that called for dominant starting pitching.

Clayton Kershaw lasted only five innings? So what?


These Dodgers have offensive firepower, which manifested itself at Nationals Park in home runs by Corey Seager and Justin Turner that established an early four-run lead. They have a dominant bullpen that limited the Nationals to a solitary hit over the last four innings.

“That’s sort of been our formula all year long,” Roberts said.

The formula produced a fourth consecutive division title for the Dodgers, but you still had to wonder how it would translate in the postseason.

Was their offense capable of producing against the quality of pitching that is typically showcased in October? Could their largely anonymous bullpen continue to thrive under the bright lights of the national stage?

They did Friday, and, in the process, solidified an identity they shaped over the previous three months.

Oddly enough, the Dodgers found themselves in the 10 weeks Kershaw was on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his back. What was supposed to be the end of the Dodgers season was instead the start of their surge toward first place.

This Game 1 victory could have a similar effect.

“I think so,” Roberts said. “When your ace doesn’t have his best stuff and you still find a way to win …”


His players shared similar thoughts.

“We’re to have days where the starters are just not there 100% and the offense and the defense need to pick up and the bullpen needs to come in do a really good job,” catcher Yasmani Grandal said.

The relievers had plenty of practice in the regular season, particularly in August, when the rotation averaged fewer than five innings per start.

“We just go out there and do the job,” said closer Kenley Jansen, who recorded a five-out save.

On this particular night, the bridge to Jansen consisted of Joe Blanton, Grant Dayton and Pedro Baez.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw said Game 1 of the NLDS, a 4-3 victory over the Nationals, was a grind. 

There were some nervous moments for Dodgers, particularly in the seventh inning when Dayton walked Daniel Murphy with one out and was replaced by the hard-throwing-but-erratic Baez. With Anthony Rendon at the plate, Murphy attempted to steal second base, only to be thrown out by Grandal.

Kershaw spoke the day before about how different this team was from previous seasons. Citing the roster’s overall strength, he said he didn’t feel as burdened as he did in the past.


“We have so many guys that can do so many different things that it’s not all on me,” Kershaw said.

That includes the offense.

The Dodgers went into the postseason last year with a skeleton of a lineup that consisted of Adrian Gonzalez and little else. If Gonzalez had done then what he did Friday — he was 0 for 4 — they basically had no chance of scoring.

Compare that to now. In Gonzalez, Seager and Turner, the Dodgers have three legitimate middle-of-the-order hitters.

Their No. 6 and 7 hitters, Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal, combined for 52 home runs in the regular season.

Their platoons at multiple positions allowed them to have Yasiel Puig and Howie Kendrick available to pinch hit.

This is not traditional Dodgers baseball, which explains why so much of Los Angeles remains skeptical about this team’s chances for October glory.

When you think of the Dodgers and the championships, you think of Sandy Koufax dominating the New York Yankees.

You picture of Orel Hershiser growling and pumping his fist.

You remember the offense scrapping together a run here, a run there.

But if the playoffs unfold as President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman hopes they do, those images will be replaced by that of a towering blast by Seager or a barely recognizable reliever running out of the bullpen.

Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez