For the first time since 1988, the Los Angeles Dodgers are heading back to the World Series. They knocked off the defending champion Chicago Cubs with an 11-1 victory on Thursday, winning the National League Championship Series in five games.
The Dodgers outscored the Cubs, 28-8, during the series and completely dominated on both sides of the ball. Their opponent in the World Series is still to be determined, as the Houston Astros and New York Yankees look to wrap up the American League Championship Series by Saturday at the latest.
From the bullpen to well-constructed depth, let’s take a deeper look at the Dodgers’ performance against the Cubs in the NLCS.
Clayton Kershaw reverses negative postseason reputation once and for all
The three-time Cy Young Award winner has received unwarranted criticism for his playoff performance in years past, but that should no longer be the case after his showing against the Cubs in the NLCS.
In two starts, including a deciding Game 5 win at Wrigley Field, Kershaw posted a 2.45 ERA and 0.82 WHIP over 11 innings with nine strikeouts to two walks. It was his first postseason outing at the Friendly Confines since a disappointing loss in Game 6 of the 2016 NLCS.
Kershaw is next expected to take the mound on Tuesday when the Dodgers host either the Astros or Yankees in Game 1 of the World Series.
The Dodgers’ relief corps set a postseason record with 23 consecutive scoreless innings, including 17 shutout frames against the Cubs offense.
Kenley Jansen didn’t allow a run over 4.1 innings pitched and only yielded one baserunner during the entire series. He struck out eight Cubs batters without issuing any free passes and additionally tallied a save.
Setup man Brandon Morrow allowed just two baserunners all series and notched seven punch outs. Midseason acquisitions Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson combined for 3.1 scoreless innings with three strikeouts and no walks.
Finally, Kenta Maeda, who transitioned to a relief role for the postseason, tossed three perfect innings with three strikeouts.
Success with runners in scoring position
The Dodgers offense provided timely hits throughout the NLCS, and that was evident with their success in regards to runners in scoring position.
The club collectively hit .244 (20-for-82) with three doubles, two triples and two home runs with runners in scoring position.
The Cubs, on the contrary, were hitless in 14 opportunities with runners in scoring position.
Justin Turner and Chris Taylor enjoy historic series
It’s fitting that both Turner and Taylor shared co-MVP honors for their performances in the NLCS.
The pair joined the Dodgers in 2014 and 2016, respectively, after disappointing tenures with their previous clubs. Both made similar adjustments at the plate once arriving in Los Angeles and have blossomed into stars.
Men’s Los Angeles Dodgers Chris Taylor & Justin Turner Fanatics Branded Royal 2017 National League Champions Co-MVP T-Shirt
In 23 plate appearances, Turner hit .333/.478/.667 with two home runs — including a walk-off shot in Game 2 on the 29-year anniversary of Kirk Gibson’s memorable home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.
Taylor batted .316/.458/.789 with one double, one triple and two home runs in 24 plate appearances. He drew five walks and consistently worked the count against opposing pitching.
The two drove in 10 of the Dodgers’ 28 runs during the series (36 percent) and added eight runs scored as well.
Yasiel Puig displays superstardom in front of national audience
While Puig enjoyed a career year at the plate during the regular season, he has further elevated his game to superstar status in the postseason — especially in the NLCS.
In 22 plate appearances against the Cubs, Puig hit .389/.500/.611 with seven hits (one double, one home run) and drew more walks (four) than strikeouts (2).
No Corey Seager, no problem
When it was announced that Corey Seager was left off the NLCS roster, analytical models began shifting in favor of the Cubs reaching the World Series a second straight year.
Taking Seager’s place on the roster was Charlie Culberson, who had spent most of the regular season in Triple-A Oklahoma City, with the exception of a September call-up.
He received just 13 at-bats during the regular season and posted a .497 on-base plus slugging, but delivered when it mattered against the Cubs.
Culberson appeared in all five NLCS contests (three starts at shortstop) and hit .455/.417/.855 with five hits — including two doubles and a triple — in 11 plate appearances.
Culberson also flashed the leather defensively and fittingly caught the final, clinching out in Game 5 that sent the Dodgers to the World Series.