The Dodgers will not be repeating as champions in 2021, as a 4-2 loss to the Braves in Game 6 of the NLCS sent Atlanta to the World Series, with the Dodgers desperately turning to Walker Buehler on short rest over the bullpen, and bats struggling to get into scoring chances and failing spectacularly when they got them.
While Eddie Rosario turning into prime Tony Gwynn and hitting a three-run homer that ended up winning the game was big moment in the 4th, it was another sequence that I think summed up this year best.
Down 4-1 in the 7th, the Dodgers rallied off Luke Jackson. Chris Taylor doubled off the wall in left, Cody Bellinger drew a walk, and AJ Pollock came through with a jam-shot double down the line in left to make it 4-2 and put the tying run in scoring position with nobody out.
From there, Albert Pujols — hitting for Matt Beaty, who was playing for Max Muncy — struck out, Steven Souza Jr. hit for the pitcher and struck out looking, and Mookie Betts went down on three fastballs to end the threat and the season. The lack of performance from their depth, having to play guys like Souza much less rostering him, and the stars not coming through at the right times basically capped the year and led to their demise.
Disappointing ending, but realistically this is how it happens more often than not.
For a team that won a remarkable 112 games this year, 2021 has frequently felt like a struggle for the Dodgers.
I know, I know. Many Dodger fans don’t want to hear that, and opposing fans definitely don’t want to hear about it. But it’s true. The 2021 Dodgers were supremely talented and yet it never really felt like they put it all together.
Last year, despite having a much more discombobulated pitching staff, it often felt like they were playing well and that they always had a chance. 2021, by comparison, felt like a slog through much of the year. The injuries started early and impacted them more than ever towards the end of the season, especially in terms of pitching. When the lineup got healthy in the second half, the offense was a disappointment for long stretches and that continued into the playoffs.
Speaking of the playoffs, the surprising struggle was not getting enough from their three Cy Young contender starters, though a lot of that was arguably self-inflicted. Despite having likely the best bullpen they’ve ever had, Dave Roberts and the front office of the Dodgers didn’t really trust them enough when it mattered, using their starters in relief to the point where they lost effectiveness later and/or were unavailable. Ultimately that was their undoing in the NLCS, as in conjunction with their offensive woes, it all simply caught up to them.
It is unfair in many respects to call a team that won so many games and made it to the NLCS a disappointment, but when a collection of talent comes together like this, the expectations understandably follow and it’s hard to describe how 2021 ended as anything but that.
Anyway, hope you stick around on Dodgers Digest for the off-season, because the 2021-22 one for the Dodgers is sure to be an eventful one and it’s probably going to be key as to whether their incredible run of success continues at the same level or begins to crumble a bit.