It has been a long 28 years since the Los Angeles Dodgers have played in a World Series, but that streak is closer to ending than it has been in any of the previous 27 years.
The Dodgers hold a 2-1 lead over the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series as this is being written and could wrap up the National League pennant as early as Oct. 20 with two more wins over the Cubs, the best team in baseball for most of 2016.
But the old baseball axiom that good pitching beats good hitting has proven true in the first three games of the series and the Cubs have quit hitting altogether, getting just six base hits combined in games two and three.
The Dodgers’ dilemma going into game five of the series Oct. 20, before flying back to Chicago for games six and seven Oct. 22 and 23 (if necessary), is when to start Clayton Kershaw again.
Kershaw pitched brilliantly Oct. 16 in game two, shutting out the Cubs on two hits over seven innings. He would be pitching on three days’ rest, but he has already proven he can do that.
The other choice to start is Kenta Maeda, the rookie from Japan who won 16 games during the season for the Dodgers. But Maeda would be pitching on four days rest and he is better off with five or six days off between starts.
Also by starting Kershaw in game five, he would have four days off before being able to start game one of the World Series Oct. 26, assuming the Dodgers get there.
I think it’s inevitable they will be there.
Except for the eighth inning of game one, the first three games of the National League Championship series have been all the Dodgers could have hoped for.
But after coming back to tie the score at 3-3, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts lost a chess match to his Chicago counterpart Joe Maddon, Miguel Montero hit a grand slaw home run off Joe Blanton and the Dodgers lost game one, 8-3.
Game two was Kershaw, a home run by Adrian Gonzalez and a six-out save by Kenley Jansen, who is earning himself some big money with his post-season pitching this year. Jansen hits free agency after the season.
Game three was another close pitching duel until the late innings, with Rich Hill allowing only two hits over the first six innings and Jansen getting the last four outs to seal the win.
The young Cubs have wilted in the spotlight and pressure of the playoffs. Only third baseman Kris Bryant and second baseman Javier Baez have hit the ball with any consistency.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo is hitting .091 in the series, shortstop Addison Russell doesn’t have a hit yet and the versatile Ben Zobrist is hitting .100
No team is going to win with that many people in the lineup not hitting.
The Dodgers aren’t setting the world on fire with their hitting, but the pitching has been exceptional and, except for Montero’s grand slam, Roberts has pushed all the right buttons in going up against Maddon.
With each win, the Dodgers more and more seem like a team of destiny, a team on a mission to go somewhere the franchise hasn’t been in 28 years.
Two more wins, and the goal will be reached.
FINAL GAME: While the Dodgers hope to close out the Cubs Oct. 20 and advance to the World Series, the Los Angeles Sparks will be playing in Minneapolis for the WNBA Championship.
The Sparks play the Minnesota Lynx in game five of the WNBA Championship Series, winner take all.
The Lynx are the defending champions and have won the title three of the last five years. They defeated the Sparks 85-79 in game four Oct. 16.
Maya Moore scored 31 points and pulled down nine rebounds to lead the Lynx to the win. She hit four free throws in the final eight seconds to seal the victory and take the series back home tied 2-2.
FOOTBALL FOLLIES: After falling back to earth with back-to-back losses, the 3-3 Rams flew to London Monday where they will play the New York Giants Oct. 23 in a game that starts at 6:30 a.m. here.
The Giants have been up and down all season, just like the Rams, so it’s hard to say how this game will go.
The Rams lost to Detroit Oct. 16, 31-28, mostly because the Rams defense is so banged up that it can’t stop anybody.
On the bright side, quarterback Case Keenum played his best game of the season and the Rams offense looked stronger than it has all season.
Keenum completed 27 of 32 passes for 321 yards and broke a franchise record with 19 straight completions during the game. Kenny Britt continued to establish himself as Keenum’s favorite target with seven catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
Todd Gurley has not recaptured what he showed last year as a rookie running back, gaining only 58 yards in 14 carries.
If Gurley gets on track and the defense recovers from the injury bug that has taken a big bite of the Rams, a playoff spot is still within the Rams’ reach.
UCLA also has been bitten by the injury bug, with quarterback Josh Rosen being the biggest injury. Coach Jim Mora doesn’t discuss injuries so Bruins fans don’t know what is wrong with Rosen or how long he will be out.
One thing we do know about Rosen’s injury: it has exposed a lack of depth at the most important position on the team and that is Mora’s fault. Former walk-on Mike Fafaul is a redshirt senior forced into action by Rosen’s injury and he plays like a walk-on who hasn’t played football since his high school days.
The Bruins running game has been non-existent for most of the season and at 3-4, the Bruins are in danger of falling into irrelevance in the Pac 12 South, especially if they can’t defeat Utah Oct. 22 at the Roise Bowl.
Game time is 1 p.m. and the game will be on Channel 11.
USC played its best game of the season, Oct. 15, defeating the Arizona Wildcats, 48-14.
The Trojans made life miserable for former Gardena Serra star Khalil Tate. The freshman was thrust into the starting quarterback role after injuries to the Wildcats top two quarterbacks.
He completed seven of 18 passes for 58 yards and one interception and carried the ball 14 times for 72 yards and a touchdown. On the Wildcats first play from scrimmage Tate gained 28 yards, but the Trojans stifled him the rest of the afternoon.
The USC offense had its best day of the season, gaining 320 yards on the ground while quarterback Sam Darnold threw for another 235 yards.
Aca’Cedric Ware led the Trojans running game, gaining 103 yards on 12 carries.
USC is off until Oct. 27, when they face Cal in a 7:30 p.m. game at the Coliseum.
FRED SLAUGHTER: Most people don’t know the name. He played basketball at UCLA with Walt Hazzard, Gail Goodrich and Keith Erickson, who all went on to play in the NBA.
He was a UCLA center before Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton.
But Slaughter was an important cog in the 1963-64 Bruins team that went 30-0 and won the first of John Wooden’s 10 NCAA titles.
At 6-5, Slaughter was the tallest player in the Bruins starting lineup. He also was the last line of defense in the 2-2-1 zone press defense that the Bruins used to run away from most of their opponents that year.
Besides playing basketball, he also was senior class president. After graduation, he earned a law degree at Columbia University and launched a successful career as a sports agent and attorney.
In the 1970s, he served as assistant dean of admissions and student affairs at UCLA’s School of Law.
Slaughter died Oct. 6 at his home in Santa Monica, UCLA announced this week.
Although he wasn’t an all American like Hazzard or Goodrich and he didn’t have an NBA career, Wooden always considered him an essential ingredient to that first championship team. Slaughter averaged 7.9 points and 8.1 rebounds that year.
He was inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004.