Up: The Dodgers are just fine, after all
Remember when everybody (mostly Dodgers fans, themselves) was in a panic while the Dodgers were playing some terrible baseball during the month of September? Los Angeles went from being on track for one of the greatest regular seasons of all time to just barely holding on to the best record in baseball by the time the season ended. They still won the division and got in the playoffs, but with a surging Diamondbacks squad facing them in the NLDS, it was understandable to have some doubts in your mind about them.
It only took three games for the Dodgers to quiet those doubts, as they made easy work of their NL West companions. Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish lived up to lofty expectations, Cody Bellinger came through with a massive performance, Kenley Jansen and the rest of the bullpen was solid, and the Dodgers as a whole just looked more like the team we saw for most of the summer instead of for that one awful month at the end. They may have had a decent amount of prognosticators picking against them in the NLDS, but I doubt that this will be the case as they enter the NLCS.
Down: The Diamondbacks really, really didn’t want the Dodgers in their pool
Back in 2013, the Dodgers clinched the NL West title in Arizona and they celebrated by taking a dip in the right field pool at Chase Field. It was a big deal back then, and even John McCain was publicly up in arms about it. The wound that the Dodgers inflicted upon the Diamondbacks on that night is still open to this day, and when the Dodgers earned their spot in the NLCS at the expense of the Diamondbacks, Arizona made sure that at the pool would not be besmirched with Dodger blue again.
The Diamondbacks and Chase Field went to astonishing lengths to keep the Dodgers out of the pool, as they brought in mounted police to guard the pool. You read that right – the Diamondbacks brought in police officers on horseback to keep the opposing team from celebrating in a pool. This wasn’t just a quick stint either. The police stayed around the pool for nearly two hours after the last pitch was thrown. The Diamondbacks may not have won a single game in the Divisional Series, but at least they defended the honor of their pool, right?
Up: The Yankees pull off the biggest upset of the Divisional Series
While the Dodgers may have been the sexy pick to get upset in the Divisional Series, Cleveland was probably the safest bet to advance into the Championship Series out of all the teams in the playoffs. After all, they were coming off the heels of an incredible September where they went on a historic winning streak and they were also the defending American League Champions and pushed the eventual World Series Champions to extra innings in Game 7 of the World Series.
However, the thing about baseball is that when you let five games in October make-or-break what happened in the previous six months, crazy stuff tends to happen. Cleveland had a 2-0 lead on the Yankees, but if there’s one thing that Aaron Judge, Todd Frazier, David Robertson, CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius, and the rest of these plucky underdog Yankees (yeah, I know) don’t know the meaning of, it’s the word “quit.” The Yankees responded by winning both games at Yankee Stadium and then completely neutralized Cleveland at Progressive Field to complete the comeback and advance to the ALCS.
Down: Cleveland’s woes in elimination games continue
Meanwhile, here’s an interesting statistic for you. In Cleveland’s last six elimination games, they are 0-6. To put that in comparison, the San Francisco Giants won six straight elimination games in 2012 alone. That’s the difference between postseason glory and postseason agony, and that’s why the prohibitive favorite to return to the World Series and actually win it this time will actually be watching the next two rounds from the comfort of their own home.
It’s hard to believe that Corey Kluber would be sub-par for two consecutive starts when his team needed him to step it up the most. It’s also hard to believe that this offense that looked so dynamic and nearly unstoppable during their extended winning streak could end up looking almost impotent as their season came to a close. Yet, that’s what happened. It’s a shame that we won’t get to see Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and the other exciting players on this Cleveland team make another deep playoff run, but that’s baseball for you.
Up: Cubs survive to defend their NL Pennant
It may have taken them five games (including a very stressful Game 5), but the Cubs were able to make it past the Washington Nationals by taking the final game on the road. They’ll have to play their next two games on the road since they’ll be heading out west to face the Dodgers, but I’m sure that Joe Maddon and the rest of his crew are willing to take that long trip to Dodger Stadium instead of taking the even longer trip to the couch.
As a result, the Cubs now have a chance to make what’s been a tricky 2017 season for them a thing of the past if they can make it back to the World Series. They withstood a surprising challenge from the Milwaukee Brewers and the Cubs, and they managed to outlast the Nationals in five games. Even though the Cubs will probably be the underdogs heading into this series, with the way these playoffs have gone, it would not be a huge shock to see Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and the rest of the gang back in the Fall Classic.
Down: The Nationals still haven’t won a playoff series
In last week’s edition of Three Up, Three Down, I lamented the lack of luck that the Rockies had in their final game. With that being said, your heart has to go out to the Nats after they wrote another chapter in the depressing book that is Washington D.C.’s Playoff Sports History. Stephen Strasburg’s amazing effort in Game 4 to push the series to a fifth game will probably end up being forgotten due to the astonishingly bad luck that the Nats had in Game 5.
Max Scherzer made a relief appearance and gave up four runs. Basically every ball that got away from Nationals defenders took the worst bounce possible. Jayson Werth misjudged a fly ball and completely whiffed on a sliding catch. Finally, the Nationals had a late rally snuffed out due to Jose Lobaton being called out by the tiniest of margins via replay. The Washington Nationals now have to deal with another long winter of “what-ifs” and this may be the longest offseason of them all for the Nationals and their fans.