By Don Wanlass
The Dodgers 6-2 win Oct. 8 over the Atlanta Braves made Dodgers President Andrew Friedman look like a genius.
Three of the players he acquired at the July and August trade deadlines all gave key performances as the Dodgers ousted the Braves from the playoffs and advanced to the National League Championship Series starting Oct. 12 against the Milwaukee Brewers.
In the fifth inning, with the Braves leading 2-1, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts brought in Ryan Madson to relieve starting pitcher Rich Hill with the bases loaded and one out. The game could have gotten out of hand at the time, but Madson induced two pop flies to get out of the inning.
In the top of the sixth inning, Roberts sent up David Freese to pinch hit for Madson with the score still 2-1 and two men in scoring position. Freese promptly lined a single to drive in both runs to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead.
In the top of the seventh, shortstop Mario Machado, Friedman’s biggest trade deadline acquisition since he took over the Dodgers front office four years ago, whacked a three-run home run over the left field fence and the Braves were done.
The Dodgers won the series three games to one.
Trade deadline deals don’t always work out like that, which is an indication that luck also contributed to the cause. But as Branch Rickey, a Dodger front office executive 70 years ago used to say, “Luck is the residue of design.”
Madson and Freese had been in these situations before.
Madson is pitching in his seventh postseason. He was in the Philadelphia Phillies bullpen when they won the 2008 World Series and the Kansas City Royals bullpen when they won in 2015. In 12 World Series games, he has a 2.45 earned run average.
Freese was the most valuable player of the National League Championship Series and World Series in 2011 while playing third base for the St. Louis Cardinals. He hit .545 with three home runs and nine runs batted in in the NLCS against the Milwaukee Brewers and hit .348 with one homer and seven RBI in the World Series over the Texas Rangers that year.
Both Madson and Freese know what it is like to play in the World Series and what it means to win it. That’s invaluable experience to these Dodgers, who found out last year what it is like to come close to winning the World Series.
In seven years in Baltimore, Machado only made the postseason twice, in 2012 and 2016. His batting average in seven games with the Orioles was .148 with a home run and two RBI. He had only three hits in 18 at bats for the Dodgers against the Braves, but all three hits drove in runs and he finished with six RBI, to lead the Dodgers.
Machado was acquired to give the Dodgers’ offense a focal point. He has hit 33 or more home runs in each of the last four years and had 107 RBI this year, a career high.
But he only hit .273 after coming to the Dodgers in July, with 13 home runs and 42 RBI. Decent numbers, but just another hitter in the Dodgers lineup that features Justin Turner, Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig, and included seven players who hit 20 home runs or more and 10 who hit 10 or more.
Machado is a free agent at the end of the postseason and most people don’t expect the Dodgers to resign him. Some don’t think the Dodgers will even try to resign him, figuring that Corey Seager can bounce back from elbow and hip surgeries and provide numbers close to what Machado can do for a whole lot less money.
Machado has a bit of diva in him. He doesn’t always run out ground balls to the infield and he likes to delay his throws to first on some ground balls, the better to show off his excellent throwing arm. His home run trot Monday took almost 30 seconds.
But he put the Dodgers into the second round of the playoffs with that shot and the Dodgers are in a good position.
Clayton Kershaw will pitch game one against the Brewers Oct. 12 at 5 p.m. Hyun-Jin Ryu, who pitched so well in game one against the Braves, may not pitch until game three, which will be in Dodger Stadium Oct. 15. That means Walker Buehler will start game two in Milwaukee Oct. 13.
That is formidable starting pitching that the Brewers don’t come close to approaching. The Brewers may have a better bullpen, but if their starters fall behind early consistently to the Dodgers, it could be a short series.
The Brewers can hit. Outfielder Christian Yellich is the odds-on National League most valuable player this year, almost becoming the first National league player since Joe Medwick in 1937 to win the triple crown for leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBI.
He is a Southern California boy, like first baseman Ryan Braun and third baseman Mike Moustakas. The three would like to shine in their hometown under the bright light of the playoffs.
They only had six players hit more than 10 home runs this season, but three of them — Yellich, Travis Shaw and Jesus Aguilar — each hit more than 30.
Manager Craig Counsell, however, sometimes finds it difficult to get all his power hitters in the lineup at once because Braun and Aguilar both play first base and Moustakas and Shaw both play third base. To solve the logjam, Shaw often plays second and Braun plays left field.
The Brewers finished with four more wins than the Dodgers, which is why they have home field advantage in the series.
I don’t expect that to matter, as the Dodgers will win the series in six games.