For what it is worth, I know that no one is ever in a good mood when the Dodgers lose. Admittedly, ever since the conclusion of Game 5 of the 2017 World Series, I have found myself physically unable to react emotionally to Dodger baseball when I watch on television.
But man, apparently, it’s that time of year again.
Literally, the evening before the Game 1 debacle, which has been adequately covered elsewhere, I wrote the following, which largely went unnoticed:
While Kershaw’s stat line for the final third of the 2023 regular season appears satisfactory there is one statistic that should be treated as a giant red flag: [Kershaw had a 5.40 FIP in the final third of the season.]
On average, a FIP of 3.20 or less is considered excellent and a FIP of 5.00 and above is awful. In the three years since Eric started measuring the season in third, Kershaw’s FIP has never risen above 3.50 (great) until this season, when it happened twice — in both the middle third (3.75) and the final third...
At this point with Kershaw though, it’s been my anecdotal view that one basically has to hope he scratches and claws to five innings while clenching one’s jaw, which is an unusual position for Kershaw to be in, but c’est la vie...
I wrote in various places that I only had two hopes for the Dodgers in this postseason, even with all of the overachieving in the regular season, as everything at this point is arguably house money:
- The Dodgers do not get swept, especially in the NLDS round.
Clayton Kershaw does not get shelled or has a moment of playoff infamy.
I think you will agree with me that goal number two is now off the table.
It stinks but I do not have a time machine. So, with the quirks of the schedule, please spare me from takes that indicate that the bye is bad, the Dodgers’ community has twenty-four hours to fester in the stink of this
borderline historic lousy night.
I have been at the ballpark when the Dodgers get stomped. I have been at the ballpark when Kershaw gets stomped. Both experiences stink. Both experiences are not fun.
I really hoped that I would be wrong about all the red flags surrounding Kershaw. I went back to listen to the radio broadcast and all of the contact against Kershaw was loud, almost akin to what you would hear in batting practice.
Kershaw admitted that he was embarrassed by his performance in Game 1. Frankly, in the absence of an injury, which he continues to deny, there are not a lot of positives to be gleaned from this outing. I would disagree with Dave Roberts’ assessment of Kershaw’s stuff in Game 1 - he was missing his spots, and when he was missing he was missing in the middle of the plate and his breaking pitches looked flat and were hit hard. I may have been born at night, but I was not born last night.
Ultimately, in my analysis prior to Game 1, I felt that Kershaw was emulating Tony Gonsolin in that his win-loss statistics looked good, but his advanced statistics indicated that something was off.
Even anecdotally, I could provide first-hand testimony to support this argument. When Kershaw got hit in Seattle and San Francisco, he was hit hard, almost akin to batting practice. His command would absolutely desert him, which is unlike what we have become accustomed to with Kershaw. And then, he would dig deep and find a way to persevere by hook or by crook.
Obviously, Kershaw and the Dodgers’ night was done before he could record two outs.
The good news is that last night’s debacle still only counts as one loss.
Emmet Sheehan and Shelby Miller are probably unavailable for Game 2 but they did fine all things considered. Most of the leverage arms were understandably not used. No one was injured albeit the Dodger bats looked flat — again, but going down six before getting a chance to do anything will absolve most offenses from blame under these circumstances.
That summary sums up the silver linings from this game.
For the second year in a row, the Dodgers have ceded home-field advantage and squandered the advantages of rest coming from a first-round bye.
At this point, Bobby Miller and the offense need to show some life in Game 2 otherwise the season will come down to winning two games in a likely geo-locked stadium at Chase Field. Remember last year, the Padres restricted ticket sales to those living in the area for their portion of the NLDS? It would be quite naive to not expect that Arizona would do the same thing, negating the idea of Dodger fans taking over Chase Field, but nothing has been announced publicly yet.
Roberts is publicly saying that Kershaw will pitch Game 4 and that nothing is physically wrong with him. Considering what was said publicly about Tony Gonsolin’s condition for what felt like half the season, only for the revelation that Gonsolin needed Tommy John surgery.
In any event, all we can do is wait and see. In the unlikely event that the Dodgers play as poorly as they collectively did in Games 2 and 3, whoever pitches in Game 4 becomes a moot hypothetical.
The new lowlight
If we can engage in gallows humor for just a moment, at least last night serves as the new low point to the season and we can all laugh at what was previously the worst moment on the field in 2023, the Benny Hill play against the Giants this past June.
In 2022, after recovering from COVID and hyperuricemia, I wrote an essay admitting that I was not paying attention to the Dodgers after a terrible stretch where it looked like the Dodgers were finding new and innovative ways to lose ballgames.
For such an example, we return to a few months ago, when the Giants had their moment in the sun and Mookie Betts forgot how to run the bases, which I hope we can all laugh about now:
I had high expectations on the call and Jon Miller over-delivered yet again https://t.co/5hnPxjPBPD— Eric Stephen (@ericstephen) June 17, 2023
All that encounter needed is the Benny Hill theme and we are set, and as if on cue, the internet provides. During that weekend, I showed this play to my law school friend and attorney colleague in Oakland and he did not believe the play was real.
He then got angry and started laughing in equal measure. Because sometimes all you can do is just laugh and shrug your shoulders.
The point that I am trying to make is that even in the lowest moments, there is the possibility of joy and humor.
I buried my dad this week and what stings from tonight is the knowledge that he would have called to check on me after hearing about the results of this game, so part of me is going to wait for a call that can and will never come.
Forgive me if I am more apathetic than most would like me to be to yet another bad Kershaw outing in the postseason, be it related to injury or otherwise.
Kershaw will be fine. The Dodgers will be fine.
Life does and will go on. But sometimes the waiting is the hardest part.
While I can and will direct you to last year’s essay about poor play during the regular season, there are two additional points I should make that are relevant to this year.
How I learned to love the number four
Since 2017, when the Dodgers went to figurative sleep in September and dropped eleven games in a row from September 2 to September 11, is six games in 2019 (April 8 to April 13). However, since the Dodgers won the 2020 World Series, in a year where their longest losing streak in the regular season was two games, the longest length of a losing streak the Dodgers have had is four games — four times.
- May 4 to May 7, 2021 (the second half of the original #SaveEli trip, swept by the Cubs in Chicago and then the opener in Anaheim)
- June 21 to June 24, 2021 (swept by the Padres in San Diego and then the opener to the Cubs at Dodger Stadium)
- May 11 to May 14, 2022 (lost the finale against the Pirates in Pittsburgh, then swept by the Phillies at Dodger Stadium)
- June 3 to June 7, 2023 (dropped two in a row against the Yankees at home, then walked off twice against the Reds in Cincinnati)
That stretch of good play is absolutely ridiculous apart from the games that I have previously cited. The Dodgers as an organization, their front office, and their players are not immune to criticism. But when you take a step back, during the regular season, these folks know what they are doing.
The pendulum can swing back
I have been quite famously critical of aspects of Dave Roberts’ management tenure. At the end of the day, I think he is a fine regular-season manager. I would expect and hope that the Dodgers come out with a vengeance with Bobby Miller in Game 2.
There is one outcome left that I would hope that these Dodgers avoid being swept in this series. I do understand the frustration of paying considerable funds (especially, if one traveled from out of town) to see the Dodgers play, to see that. Stinkers at the ballpark happen.
In 2015, as a poor law student, I spent some of my last dollars to head up to New York from D.C. to watch the Dodgers play at Citi Field. In fact, my first game was to watch the major league debut of heralded prospect Zach Lee against the Mets. The Dodgers were annihilated.
Heck, I can even point to games this year that turned into stinkers, both of which somehow involved Noah Syndergaard, where the Rays ran roughshod over the Dodgers on May 26 and the Dodgers forgot how to hit letting him post a quality start against them in Cleveland on August 22.
Sometimes, all one can do is the advice I now proffer to the Dodgers and their fans: Shake it off.