Sarah's Take: Dodgers have will to win
Los Angeles thrills crowd with first two playoff victories
The Dodgers have won the first two games of their National League Division Series against the Cardinals. In both games, the Dodgers have thrilled their hometown crowd. Though the series is a long way from over as it goes to St. Louis, I am confident the Dodgers will win the series.
Before the series began, many people worried that the Dodgers wouldn't play well against the Cardinals. During the regular season, the Cardinals dominated the Dodgers. St. Louis has two Cy Young Award candidates, whereas Los Angeles manager Joe Torre needed to figure out which starters would pitch in the series. For the last two weeks of the regular season, the Dodgers struggled, and not many believed they would succeed in the playoffs.
Those naysayers didn't know the Dodgers. This team never quits until the last out has been recorded. On Wednesday, though the Cardinals had dominated the Dodgers for the entire game, the Dodgers never lost confidence in their ability to win the game. Matt Holliday's error with two outs in the ninth inning gave the Dodgers an opportunity, and they took advantage, scoring two runs to win. This year the Dodgers have 22 victories in their last at-bat. A team's resiliency often shows the likelihood of the team earning a world championship. The Dodgers' resiliency is a testament to the players' unsinkable spirit and Torre's ability to instill confidence in his team.
Clayton Kershaw, 21, has arrived in the Major Leagues to be the Dodgers' ace. Since June, he has been the second-most reliable Dodgers starter next to Randy Wolf. Kershaw pitched the game when the Dodgers clinched the National League West Division title. He was excellent.
On Wednesday, Kershaw baffled the Cardinals with a good fastball and the best curve that he has had all year. His pitch efficiency was great, and that enabled him to go 6 2/3 innings, giving the bullpen a much-needed break. Most people thought Kershaw wasn't ready for the spotlight of the playoffs, but he has showed that the added pressure of the playoffs doesn't bother him.
The Dodgers' bullpen has been fantastic, not allowing a run in the first two postseason games. Although the Cardinals haven't hit well, especially Albert Pujols, the Los Angeles relievers could have kept any team quiet.
Manny Ramirez hasn't hit the way he should, but the Dodgers have had good offense. They have been patient at the plate, making the St. Louis pitchers work. When the Dodgers have needed an emotional lift, either Matt Kemp or Andre Ethier has delivered. Rafael Furcal has done a great job getting on base. The whole lineup has contributed, and this is what makes a winner. The Dodgers have wasted some scoring opportunities, but the Cardinals have wasted more.
During the series, the Dodgers have played terrific defense, which has helped the pitchers and prevented many big rallies for the Cardinals. When James Loney cut down a rookie trying to advance to third base on Wednesday, he kept the Cardinals from scoring another run and kept the game in reach for the Dodgers to win. Whereas the Dodgers' defense has helped them, the Cardinals' defense and base running haven't been good. They haven't played like a playoff-caliber team.
Through the regular season, the Dodgers had demonstrated a persistence and determination to win games. This enabled them to have the best record in the National League. Their persistence has continued into the playoffs. I think when the Dodgers were eliminated from the National League Championship Series last year, they felt like they had some unfinished business. All year the Dodgers have played like a team on a mission. With one more win, the Dodgers will return to the National League Championship Series.
Sarah D. Morris is the editor of Sarah's Dodger Place. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.