Column: The Dodgers are dominant in sweep of Diamondbacks
The Los Angeles Dodgers swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS. Now, no to the NLCS. Who does the team want to play? Los Angeles Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke breaks it down.
Austin Barnes shook his right fist toward the dugout. Kenley Jansen pointed his right hand to the sky.
The catcher and pitcher swaggered into each other’s arms and were soon joined by a stream of sprinting, leaping teammates trying to storm their way into history.
It was a scene not of surprise, but strength. It was a moment not of unbridled joy, but fulfilled expectation.
These Dodgers have been here before, but never like this.
The Dodgers have marched into the National League Championship Series twice before during their current five-year postseason streak, but never with such quiet intensity and blunt force.
What was completed at Chase Field here Monday night was more than a sweep, it was a stampede. It was a steamrolling. Or it was, if you want to believe Yasiel Puig, an absolute licking.
It was the Dodgers defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 to clinch the National League division series three games to none and advance to their second National League Championship Series in five years.
“It’s incredible,” said a goggled and champagne-soaked Justin Turner shortly after Jansen put the punctuation mark on another typical teeth-gritting Dodger victory.
So short, in fact, that a Dodger legend is planning on it. After attending all three of the Dodger victories, Sandy Koufax was already mapping out his next visit.
“I’ll be be back Oct. 24,” said Koufax Monday, standing outside a visiting clubhouse filled with champagne showers and bear hugs.
The date of Game 1 of the World Series? Yep, Oct. 24.
“I really believe they’re going to get there,” said Koufax. “Why not? This is a very impressive team.”
They were so impressive, they didn’t need to make a big splash about it. No, the Dodgers didn’t swim in the Chase Field swimming pool Monday like they did when they clinched their first of five consecutive division titles here in 2013. The Diamondbacks dispatched police horses to guard the structure, just in case.
This time the Dodgers did something more compelling. They symbolically drained that pool, drop by drop, wearing down the Diamondbacks pitchers with endless plate appearances, ball one, ball two, foul, strike two, ball three, foul, again and again and again.
“It was the best three games of team offense in a row that I’ve ever seen,’” said Farhan Zaidi, general manager. “Certainly in a playoff scenario.”
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner talks about defeating the Diamondbacks in the National League division series.
In the end, they even wore down the Arizona fans. Yes, those were “Let’s Go Dodgers” chants that ultimately swept the building as the Dodgers’ swam only in bubbly.
“One down, two to go,” said owner Mark Walter. “The sweep is big.”
It was big and relentless and painstaking and perfect. It was about reverting to the style of play that won 52 out of 61 games at one point this summer. It was about rediscovering their focus, and bringing back the fun.
This was a Diamondbacks team with the third-most regular season wins in the National League — their 93 victories were one better than the Chicago Cubs — yet in three games the Dodgers trailed only three innings.
This was a Diamondbacks team that had won 11 of 19 games against the Dodgers in the series, yet they often seemed unsettled and overmatched.
The Dodger offense touched the three Arizona starters for 11 runs in 10 1/3 innings, including a five-inning jabbing of former Dodger Zack Greinke in the clincher. The Dodger pitching was so deep, the best starter was their third guy, Yu Darvish, who was brilliant Monday in allowing one run on two hits in five innings with seven strikeouts and no walks.
“It’s not about one guy going out carrying the team,’’ said Turner. “It’s a different guy every night.’’
Typical of their individual efforts was the rejuvenated play of struggling Cody Bellinger, who recorded his first postseason extra-base hit with a homer in the top of the fifth, then ended the bottom of the fifth by flopping into the Dodgers dugout while catching Jeff Mathis’ foul ball.
It only figured that manager Dave Roberts’ eyes were wide with panic when Bellinger came over the rail, then Roberts quickly rushed to his aid. It was, after all, Roberts who picked the rookie up with a pep talk before his earlier homer.
“He kind of pulled me aside and said, ‘Listen, you picked us up all year, we’ll get you right here. Next at-bat, don’t try to do too much,’” Bellinger recalled. “So I kind of took that and ran with it.”
Positively, this was a great game for Roberts, whose dugout deftness has sometimes been lost in the glory grabbed by his players. On Monday, his bold philosophies were on full display, when pulled Darvish after just 74 pitches, just in time for Tony Cingrani to induce a double-play grounder, setting up Brandon Morrow for four outs, then Kenta Maeda for three more outs before Jansen showed up close.
Yes, this is the same Maeda who only appeared out of the bullpen four times during a season in which he made 25 starts. But moved into a relief role during the postseason, he has shined.
For sure, the Diamondbacks didn’t come close, and while the Dodgers playoff power was perhaps unfamiliar to newer Dodger fans, it contained a feeling that longtime Los Angeles sports fans know well.
This was only three games, but it was filled with the dominance the Lakers displayed in 2001 in winning their first 11 playoff games during the height of their dynasty.
This was only a few days, but it contained the deep strength shown by the Kings in 2012, when they won 15 of their first 17 Stanley Cup playoff games as they burst into national prominence.
The Dodgers will now move to a rematch with one of their playoff opponents from last season. Beginning Saturday at Dodger Stadium, they will host either the Chicago Cubs or the Washington Nationals, whoever survives an NLDS currently led by the Cubs, two games to one.
The Dodgers defeated the Nationals in five taut games in last year’s NLDS, then lost to the Cubs in the NLCS, but both teams seem vulnerable this season. Neither can match the Dodgers’ lineup depth and pitching staff, and here’s guessing the team that just got swept would agree.
How tough have these three nights been for the Diamondbacks?
When Arizona reliever David Hernandez came into the game in the sixth inning, the stadium speakers rang with the rap lyrics, “As I walked in the valley of the shadow of death.”
The Dodgers now proceed toward what they hope will be the valley of the shadow of history.
Go beyond the scoreboard
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