The Los Angeles Dodgers have never been in the postseason for five straight seasons.
Never before have they gone 29 years between World Series appearances.
Will this be the year the Dodgers finally make it back to the fall classic? Or will the 2017 season end like the last four years, in disappointment?
We will start to find out Oct. 6 when the Dodgers face the winner of the Oct. 4 National League wild card game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies.
Game time is 7:30 p.m.
The Dodgers had the best overall record in baseball with 104 wins this season, the most victories in a season since the franchise moved from Brooklyn in 1958. They have the best pitcher on the planet, the deepest roster in the Major Leagues and a desire to go where no Dodger team has gone since 1988.
Will that be enough? Six weeks ago my answer would have been yes. That was when the Dodgers were threatening to break the record for most wins in a Major League season, before a skid that saw them lose 16 or 17 and 20 of 25 games.
The Dodgers recovered nicely from that skid. They won eight of their last 10 games to hold off the Cleveland Indians for the best overall record in baseball, ensuring they have the home field advantage in every playoff series.
The Dodgers struggled for offensive consistency during September. Players who had hit the ball all season took turns slumping in September. They need them to start clicking again. Chris Taylor, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig is a solid hitting core of the lineup that should be playing every day in the playoffs.
Manager Dave Roberts and the front office can mix and match Curtis Granderson, Andre Ethier and Kike Hernandez in left field, Logan Forsythe and Chase Utley at second base and Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes at catcher anyway they want to stretch the offense, but those top five players are key to the Dodgers playoff hopes.
The Dodgers also need to get more than five innings out of their starting pitchers. With Kershaw, that should be no problem. But Rich Hill, Yu Darvish and Alex Wood (please don’t start Hyun Jin Ryu) need to go at least six innings to take some of the pressure off the bullpen.
Kenley Jansen is one of the top five closers in baseball and expect him to pitch more than the ninth inning in key situations.
Brandan Morrow will be the main setup reliever for Janssen with Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani the key lefthanders. I’m not sure who the key righthanders should be.
Pedro Baez was outstanding until the middle of August, but Baez never looks relaxed in tight situations. The same can be said of Ross Stripling.
Walker Buehler pitched in some tight situations in the College World Series three seasons ago, but he remains largely untested in the big leagues since his September call-up. That might leave Kenta Maeda has a key relief pitcher for the Dodgers.
The optimist in me says the Dodgers can win it all. They will probably have to go through Arizona, Washington and Cleveland to do so.
The Diamondbacks won the season series against the Dodgers. The Nationals have three tough starting pitchers, a potent offense but a weak bullpen.
The Indians were just a couple of innings and a rain delay from winning it all last year. However it comes out, the next four weeks should be fun.