Don’t let the Los Angeles Dodgers off the hook.
They failed. The season was a failure. They were supposed to be starting the World Series on Tuesday against the Houston Astros, not sent home by the Atlanta Braves.
It was totally set up for them to repeat as World Series champions.
After all, the Dodgers have the highest payroll in baseball. Get this, their payroll to start the season was around $241 million, about $40 million, according to the Associated Press — more than the New York Yankees, once known as the Evil Empire.
Hence, that nickname belongs to the Dodgers now.
On paper, the Dodgers, by far, had the best roster. And to give them an even bigger edge, the Dodgers went out at the trade deadline and added more payroll with the addition of studs Max Scherzer and Trea Turner from the Washington Nationals.
That was supposed to help them win the National League West division for a ninth time in a row, turning away the nuisance called the San Francisco Giants and ultimately do something no NL team had done since the 1975-1976 Cincinnati Reds: repeat as champs in baseball.
It would have been a major feather in the cap of this franchise.
All involved knew that anything less would be disappointing, unacceptable.
Enter the Braves.
You know, the choking-like-a-dog franchise.
Their history is filled with dubious moments when they melted down on the big stage and in front of the bright lights.
There almost isn’t enough space on the internet to list all their failures. Recent history is bad enough. Last year, the Braves were up 3-1 in this very best-of-seven National League Championship Series to the Dodgers, only to lose the final three games of the series and go home instead of to the World Series.
The Dodgers were supposed to work over the Braves like a burger and fries this fall, too.
After all, the Braves’ roster wasn’t nearly as impressive or star-studded. Their best player, Ronald Acuña Jr., was injured back in July and unavailable.
Plus, the Braves were 14th, middle of the pack in team payroll, almost $100 million less then the boys in blue.
Cake, cake, cake.
Or so that’s what most Dodgers fans thought.
But the Braves were the better team, outperforming the Dodgers. Quite honestly, this series could have been over in a four-game sweep if the Braves didn’t choke down Game 3 in Dodger Stadium.
After the Dodgers rallied from down 5-2 in the eighth to win the game and pull with a 2-1 series deficit, most thought Atlanta would choke and the Dodgers had shifted the momentum in their favor.
It didn’t happen because the Braves were better, pitched better and got timely hits.
The Dodgers just didn’t do it.
For sure, most Dodger apologists will use the injury card to give the Dodgers a pass for not winning.
Don’t buy it.
Sure, the Dodgers had injuries, including Max Muncey and Justin Turner from their lineup. They also had to scratch Scherzer for his Game 6 start. The hope was that Scherzer could pitch a gem and force a Game 7.
He had a dead arm and couldn’t pitch.
Walker Buehler, on short rest, took over the task. No, he didn’t pitch a great game, but he allowed the Dodgers to stick around and have a shot to win.
Down 4-2 in the seventh inning, the Dodgers had their moment. It was set up for them. They had runners on second and third and there were no outs.
For sure, everyone thought a Braves meltdown was ensuing. One big hit and the Dodgers were back in business, alive.
And the Dodgers had three good bats to battle the Braves’ leaky bullpen.
Instead of seizing the moment, the Dodgers wilted like a fast-food burger under that heat lamp.
Enter lefty Tyler Matzek.
He struck out Albert Pujols swinging.
He struck out Steven Souza looking.
And then to end the threat and inning, he fanned Mookie Betts swinging with pure gas.
The Dodgers failed. Saturday night. And in the NLCS.
Despite all that had gone wrong, it was still there for the taking.
That’s why the injury excuse doesn’t fly.
The Dodgers lost this series for three reasons: they didn’t pitch well, manager Dave Roberts was reckless handling the staff, and the Dodgers failed to get hits with runners in scoring position.
In Game 6’s loss, the Dodgers mustered only five hits in a 5-2 loss.
The Braves walked off the Dodgers in Games 1 and 2 in Atlanta. Hello. Clutch hitting. The Dodgers only real sign of life came in Game 5 when they won 11-2. That was it.
So when that Dodger fan tries to sell you on the injury bug theory, tell them to save it. Nobody wants to hear it.