Coming off back-to-back losses in the World Series, the 2019 Los Angeles Dodgers were determined to end the franchise’s championship drought and avoid any sort of hangover.
L.A. went on to win a seventh consecutive National League West title and clinched by the earliest date in franchise history, set an organizational record with 106 wins and broke the NL record for most home runs in a single season, among other highlights and accomplishments.
Another trip to the postseason ended in heartbreak, however, as the Dodgers were eliminated by eventual World Series champion Washington Nationals in the NL Division Series.
The Dodgers began the 2020 campaign in emphatic fashion as they set an MLB record with eight home runs on Opening Day. That also tied a franchise mark for most home runs in any game.
Aside from a six-game losing streak in April, the Dodgers ran away with the NL West and never were in danger of falling out of first place. It was a far cry from the 2018 season, when they endured a slow start and required a Game 163 to clinch the NL West.
The 2019 Dodgers at one point were 50 games above .500, which was built on a 19-7 record during May, 18-10 month of June, and 18-6 mark to close out the final month of the regular season.
L.A. also benefitted from 12 walk-off wins throughout the year, including a June weekend that saw rookies Matt Beaty, Alex Verdugo and Will Smith each provide a game-winning home run. Beaty and Verdugo alone made MLB history by becoming the first pair of rookies to hit a walk-off home run in consecutive games, which Smith then added to.
On the pitching front, Hyun-Jin Ryu put together a Cy Young-caliber season (and ultimately finished in second place). Walker Buehler tossed his first complete game, punctuated by a career-best 16 strikeouts. Six weeks later, Buehler turned in another complete game with 15 strikeouts.
Clayton Kershaw had his streak of Opening Day starts snapped as he began the season on the 10-day injured list because of shoulder trouble. Kershaw missed the first three weeks and though he didn’t always pitch to expectations, managed to avoided the IL the rest of the way.
Kenley Jansen also dealt with inconsistency and a dip in velocity. His struggles were magnified by offseason signing Joe Kelly enduring his own trouble and being slowed by an unspecified injury down the stretch of the season.
Even with some of the concerns, the Dodgers guaranteed themselves home-field advantage at least through the NL portion of the playoffs, and for the World Series against any opponent other than the Houston Astros.
By virtue of finishing atop the NL standings, the Dodgers awaited the winner of the Wild Card Game between the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals
The Brewers held a 3-1 lead on the road and were six outs from meeting the Dodgers in the postseason for a third consecutive year. But in what served as a precursor for October, the Nationals rallied in the eighth inning to advance to the NLDS.
Buehler pitched well and the Dodgers scored in the late innings to take Game 1 at Dodger Stadium. However, L.A. struggled the following night against Stephen Strasburg and boarded a chartered flight for Washington D.C. with the series tied at one game apiece.
Home runs from Max Muncy, Justin Turner and Russel Martin, coupled with a seven-run sixth inning, propelled the Dodgers to a 10-4 win in Game 3 and put the Nationals on the brink of elimination.
Washington got behind Max Scherzer, whom the Dodgers had on the ropes at various points, as the right-hander gutted his way through seven innings with just one run allowed.
The Dodgers embraced pressure of a winner-take-all Game 5 at Dodger Stadium, and held a 3-1 lead through seven innings. But after taking over for Buehler and notching a strikeout to end the seventh and get L.A. out of trouble, Kershaw surrendered back-to-back home runs to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto in the eighth.
Kelly being asked to pitch a second inning out of the bullpen backfired as the Nationals loaded the bases and former Dodger Howie Kendrick delivered the knockout blow with a grand slam in the 10th.
The NLDS loss marked the Dodgers’ earliest postseason exit since 2015.