Published 2:19 AM EDT Oct 6, 2018
LOS ANGELES —The Los Angeles Dodgers are refining a sweet recipe:
1. Roll out the lockdown pitching.
2. Add offensive firepower.
3. Sprinkle in some swagger.
Those ingredients propelled the Dodgers to a 3-0 victory — and their second straight shutout — over the Atlanta Braves during Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Friday. It also heightened optimism best captured by Yasiel Puig, who after the Dodgers clinched the NL West crowed, “We’re going to win the World Series. We’re bringing the 2018 championship here.’’
He was drinking alcohol at the time, but his proclamation is suddenly a sobering one for the rest of the baseball world.
Start with the pitching. Those fearing Clayton Kershaw will be spending the remainder of the postseason working with a psychoanalyst. Snubbed by the Dodgers when they selected Hyun-Jin Ryu as their Game 1 starter, Kershaw eased concerns of how it might effect him.
Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr. led off the game with a double to left center on Kershaw’s first pitch. The Dodgers’ three-time Cy Young winner then retired 12 straight batters before giving up an infield single. And he remained in command, allowing only two hits in eight innings before giving way to closer Kenley Jansen.
This performance came a day after Ryu limited the Braves to four hits in seven innings in a 6-0 victory, which left Braves manager Brian Snitker marveling over the Dodgers’ pitching.
“They didn't make any mistakes for two games, for 18 innings,’’ Snitker said after Game 2. “It was two guys that were about as pinpoint as you could be.’’
With rookie sensation Walker Buehler ready to take the mound Sunday, it’s fair to argue the Dodgers have the best three-man rotation in the postseason — and you could confidently call their fourth Rich Hill.
On to the offense. This lineup is flawed. After all, in Game 1 the Dodgers were 5-for-27 (.185) at the plate. But three of those hits were home runs, and by now it’s part of the recipe.
On Friday night, the Dodgers were 5-for-28 (.179) at the plate. But two of those hits were homers — a two-run shot from Manny Machado and a solo shot from Yasmani Grandal. And if you thought Machado would be taking a pitch on a 3-0 count, well, you don’t know about these Dodgers.
“I mean, obviously you don't want to swing at a bad pitch,’’ Machado said. “You kind of want to drive the ball. If you're going to swing 3-0, you definitely want to hit it like I did, for sure.’’
With a team batting average of .250 during the regular season, the Dodgers finished tied for 17th in the major leagues in that category. But they also finished second in home runs with 235 and third in on-base plus slugging at .794.
Next, the swagger. Nobody embodies it like Puig, who took it to a new level Friday night when after getting caught stealing in the sixth, he planted a kiss on Braves shortstop Charlie Culberson, the man who had just tagged Puig out.
You’ve got to be a little kooky to kiss an opposing player, especially during the postseason. But it also reflects Puig’s confidence that permeates the Dodgers, even the non-kissers.
With the Dodgers still needing one more victory to close out their best-of-five series with the Braves and with the National League Championship Series to follow, it’s too early to say for certain the Dodgers will be in the World Series. But they’ve got their recipe figured out, and title talk is cooking in Dodgertown.
Follow Peter on Twitter @joshlpeter11