MLB playoffs: Dodgers’ NLDS sweep shows they’re still as good as advertised | Other Sports

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Dave Roberts spent the end of August and almost all of September defending moves that didn’t work out, players who didn’t perform and talking Los Angeles Dodgers fans off the ledge.

The Best. Team. Ever. ended what once looked like an all-time historic season with a 12-17 September and opened the door for National League rivals to feel they had a chance at a pennant most thought the Dodgers wrapped up in July.

MORE: Three takeaways from Dodgers’ NLDS Game 3 win

Celebrations of Cody Bellinger’s rookie season and potential MVP candidacy were forgotten as Pedro Baez couldn’t record an out. There were questions whether Chris Taylor, one of the breakout players in 2017, had turned into a pumpkin with his .257 on-base percentage in September. Was Corey Seager’s elbow injury ruining his season just before it mattered most? Did they have a left fielder? A fourth starter? A third starter? 

All the while, Roberts’ message stayed consistent: “I’ll bet on these guys.”

It paid off in a National League Division Series sweep over the Arizona Diamondbacks, a trendy pick to upset the Dodgers after sweeping Los Angeles in August and September. The D-backs wanted the Dodgers, and the Dodgers, privately, weren’t particularly thrilled about the idea of playing the D-backs in Chase Field. Yet, they looked like the team they were supposed to be.

There were contributions from just about everyone, including contributions from roles that weren’t expected. 

“You look at the three games in this series,” Roberts said, “and they’re all team wins. Guys in certain roles, now relegated to certain roles, like Kenta (Maeda), Austin Barnes a different role, and (Tony) Cingrani to get a lefty out. The at-bat quality that we had (in Game 3) against Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray the other night, was special. It really was.”

MORE: Cody Bellinger shakes rookie blues to help power LA in NLDS

The D-backs kept the scores close, but the games never felt that way. Clayton Kershaw was spotted a four-run first-inning lead in Game 1. The lead reached 7-1 before the D-backs clipped Kershaw for a total of four solo homers, enough to keep the October narrative going but not enough to put a real scare into the Dodgers. Justin Turner was the star driving in five runs. 

Game 2 was the bottom of the order’s turn, as Logan Forsythe, Austin Barnes and Yasiel Puig — hitting sixth, seventh and eighth in the order — were a combined 8 for 12, chasing starter Robbie Ray in the fifth and eliminating whatever momentum Paul Goldschmidt’s first inning homer was supposed to bring.

Game 3 was Yu Darvish looking every bit the ace he was acquired to be. It was Maeda looking flawless as an eighth-inning set-up man against right-handed hitters. It was Bellinger breaking out a slump to homer off Greinke while finding ways to contribute otherwise. It was Barnes doing the same. 

The series was everything Roberts was betting on, at least for Step 1 of this team’s World Series dream. 

“From the first pitch there was a plan in place, and we executed,” Roberts said. “(Hitting coach Turner Ward) did a great job preparing the guys, and we were relentless every single pitch, and really made Zack labor.”

MORE: D-backs prevent Dodgers from celebrating in pool

Bellinger was the only regular to post a sub-.333 OBP in the NLDS, seemingly answering whatever questions there were offensively. Kershaw is Kershaw, Darvish was dominant and most teams will take Rich Hill and Alex Wood as their other two playoff starters. Kenley Jansen is as automatic as ever to end a game.

If Maeda continues to dominate righties, if Tony Cingrani continues getting lefties out in three pitches or fewer, if Brandon Morrow proves his regular season was no accident, there aren’t many questions left for Los Angeles besides who’s next as they take on the winner of the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals.

“We’re going to get back, celebrate (Monday), get back home and prepare for whatever team advances,” Roberts said.

He’s letting his bet ride that his guys will be good enough either way

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