Clayton Kershaw’s implosion in Game 1 of the NLDS set the narrative for the Dodgers’ embarrassing showing against the rival Diamondbacks, as the 100-win club was swept in three games by a team that finished with 84 victories.
Kershaw, the future no-doubt Hall of Famer, failed to get out of the first inning. Game 2 starter Bobby Miller didn’t make it out of the second inning. Game 3 starter Lance Lynn was chased in the third, after allowing four — FOUR — home runs in that one frame, something that had never been done before in playoff history.
The Dodgers starting pitching was miserable. But nobody expected that to be a strength heading into this series. Outside of Kershaw, the rest of the rotation always felt like a roll of the dice, a mix of youngsters not yet ready for the stage and veterans past their prime. And the rest of the group actually did a pretty good job, especially in Games 2 and 3.
The biggest disappointment in this series? Point those blame fingers at the two superstars at the top of the lineup, Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman. If they performed at a level even remotely close to what they did in the regular season — what they’ve done their entire careers, including the postseason — this series would not be over.
But they failed. They failed themselves and they failed their teammates. The Dodgers’ roster was lacking, and it needed the type of boost that superstars could provide. Betts and Freeman, who hit No. 1 and 2 at the top of the lineup, offered nothing tangible. The effort and want and work was all there, but the production was not.
Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman come up empty vs. D’Backs
Betts and Freeman were a combined 1-for-21 in the series. Ouch. The one hit? An infield single by Freeman. To say it was unexpected, for so many reasons, is a massive understatement.
“You know what? I know that those guys are prepared,” Dave Roberts told reporters after the game. “Those are our guys, two great players. It’s one of the things that baseball — I don’t have an answer, I really don’t.”
Both will finish top-five in the NL MVP voting this season. Betts will likely get first-place votes, and Freeman was right in that conversation before dropping a notch behind his teammate and the Atlanta duo of Ronald Acuña Jr. and Matt Olson. Against Arizona this season, Freeman hit .389 with three homers and a 1.098 OPS. Betts wasn’t quite as good, but he did have two homers, a .390 on-base percentage and an .848 OPS.
And their final at-bats of the series — of the season — were pretty symbolic. The Dodgers trailed, 4-2, heading into the eighth inning of Game 3. Kolton Wong, who was picked up after the Mariners dropped him because injuries made his presence necessary, worked a walk to start the inning. It felt like the Dodgers had life.
Because, sure, Betts and Freeman had struggled all series, but one swing of the bat by either star — Betts had 39 homers this year, Freeman had 29 — could have erased the games of futility and offered the team a chance to flip the script. This was their October moment.
Only, Betts struck out.
Then, so did Freeman.
Wong never budged off first base.
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Dodgers stars had opportunities in Games 2 and 3
It all felt very familiar. Let’s forget about Game 1. That got out of control quickly. But the opportunities squandered by the Freeman/Betts duo in Games 2 and 3 will make for sleepless nights all offseason.
In Game 2, Arizona jumped out to a 3-0 lead after one inning, but a J.D. Martinez fourth-inning homer cut that deficit to 3-1, and the Dodgers had something cooking in the fifth. A walk and a single had runners on first and second with one out and Betts, the leadoff man, at the plate. Betts hit .384 with a 1.144 OPS with runners in scoring position this season, numbers that are jaw-dropping.
He grounded into a fielder’s choice. Then Freeman, who hit an even more incredible .397 with a 1.142 OPS with two outs and runners in scoring position, struck out looking.
In the seventh, Betts reached on an error by pitcher Ryan Thompson to open the inning, but Freeman punched that gift horse in the mouth, grounding into a double play.
In Game 3, Betts and Freeman made the first two outs in the first inning, then did the same thing in the fourth inning. Betts made the last out of the sixth and Freeman made the first out of the seventh. And then, of course, the eighth inning whimper that basically sealed the Dodgers’ fate.
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I’m not sure there’s any grand lesson to draw from the failure. Betts is one of the very best players in the game, and so is Freeman. Both have a lot of postseason success, and both are signed long-term in Los Angeles. Given the same opportunities again next October, one would be foolish to bet against the duo. Postseason baseball is all kinds of crazy.
Exhibit A of that crazy: Betts and Freeman, two superstars, going a combined 1-for-21, and the Dodgers being swept out of the playoffs by the Diamondbacks.