The Los Angeles Dodgers were a legendary baseball club before 2013, but the legend has grown this season, some would say miraculously: from the very bottom of the National League standings to representing the N.L. West in the Championship Series.
Their rise from the basement of the National League West Division in June to the NLCS in October is quite a compelling story, the stuff of legends. They had a winning stretch from the All Star break to September 1st that was so epic commentators were making comparisons to every legendary team ever, including the 1927 Yankees and the ’69 “Miracle” Mets.
To make those comparisons credible though, the Dodgers will have to win it all, a task that, despite all their talents, will be tough.
In May most Dodgers fans were thinking about another dreary season, trading last place in the division with the San Diego Padres. But then in June things began to turn around and people tried to put their finger on that one thing that could explain it all.
Some people would say, “It was the arrival of Cuban transplant Yasiel Puig that did it!” And some paid sports commentators will tell us, “No! It was the genius and patience of manager Don “Donnie Baseball” Mattingly that did it!”
Some even say, “No! It was NBA Hall of Famer Ervin “Magic” Johnson becoming an owner and instilling that champion heart into the team.”
It wasn’t any one thing. Yes, Puig got the fans excited. But then Clayton Kershaw’s ability to consistently shut down opponents every time he took the mound picked up the team. And then there is the Korean rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu and his fellow starting pitchers Zack Greinke and Ricky Nolasco; they all started recording “W’s.” A total of 58 between them, 62 if you count the four wins from the fifth starter, Chris Capuano. That’s two-thirds of their wins for the season.
Slowly the heavy hitting stars started to come back from injuries and all of a sudden the Dodgers had four healthy outfielders, all of whom can put runs on the board: Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Scott Van Slyke and Yasiel Puig.
Crawford … It’s like he had his Wheaties and spinach morning, noon and night, sharing it all with Juan Uribe, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez. They started to find their game in June, but wasn’t until after the All Star break that the baseball world was being overwhelmed with astonishing news from Chavez Ravine, or wherever the Dodgers happened to be playing.
It got less compelling in September when it looked like the wheels were falling off the wagon. But, the Dodgers were so far ahead of their closest opponent in the West, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Dodgers were all but assured a playoff berth.
But could they beat the Atlanta Braves? Sports Illustrated put the Braves on the cover as the playoffs began and they wouldn’t do that unless the prevailing wisdom was that Atlanta was the team most likely to win it all this season. It was all based on the stats and in 2013 the Braves owned the series between the two teams.
So the series started in Atlanta, GA and the Braves fans were ready to see their Braves go all the way. Every Braves fan remembers September 2011 when their team was leading the National League Wild Card race.
In one of the quirks that makes baseball so unpredictable, Braves pitching went south, not just one or two pitchers, but nearly the entire starting rotation. The Braves September record was a disappointing 9-18 and they finished the season with a record of 89-73, two games behind the St. Louis Cardinals who went on to win the World Series.
Then in 2012, Chipper Jones’s last year, they were poised to win it all. Major League Baseball instituted a new rules that says the two leading Wild Card contenders would play a one-game playoff—the Wild Card Game.
It just happened to be the Cardinals that took the field with the Braves that night. Atlanta was behind 6-3, but in the 8th inning, with two men on, Andrelton Simmons hit a short fly ball that hit the ground in left, between the Cardinals short stop and leftfielder. The umpire called the infield fly rule, calling Simmons out and leaving the Braves runners on first and second. And adding an out.
The fans went crazy. Had the ump not called the rule, the bases would have been loaded with one out. Instead, there were two outs with two men on and, eventually, the Cardinals went on to win.
So, this year the Braves and their fans were ready to go all the way. Right before the playoffs started the Braves even made the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Well, the Upton Brothers, Justin and B.J., along with Super model Kate Upton. But is there a curse of the S.I. cover? Those who appear on it lose or in some way experience terribly bad luck?
Game Four wasn’t easy. By the 7th Inning most of the Dodgers faithful in the stadium many players call “The Cathedral,” were resigning themselves to watching a Game 5 on TV when the series moved back to Atlanta.
Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers ace, was called upon to start on only three days rest. By the 7th Inning everyone had decided that had been a mistake. It’s not that Kershaw had pitched badly, but the Braves were winning, 3-2 and now the Dodgers couldn’t use Kershaw in that crucial fifth game.
But in the bottom of the 8th Inning, something happened. The Cuban rookie, Yasiel Puig hit a single that he turned into a double. When he reached second base he pumped his fists into the air and the crowd went crazy.
Next up was Juan Uribe. He had homeruns in the series already, but manager Don Mattingly was calling for a bunt! What was he thinking? But Uribe fouled off two bunts so on the next pitch, a breaking ball that didn’t break, Uribe got the biggest home run of the series maybe of his life, putting the Dodgers ahead, 4-3.
Then in the top of the 9th Inning, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen struck out the last three Braves, the last one in dramatic fashion: B.J. Upton swinging on that final strike. The Dodgers beat the Braves in four, winning one in Atlanta and two in Dodgers Stadium, Chaves Ravine, Los Angeles, CA.
For the record, pitcher Brian Wilson pitched a scoreless 8th Inning so he gets the win and Jansen recorded the save. And in just a few days the Dodgers will meet either the Pittsburgh Pirates or the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS,
Tonight (Wednesday) the Cardinals will host the Pirates in a decisive Game 5 to see who will meet L.A. for the championship series.
The Boston Red Sox finished off their opponents in the Divisional Series, the Tampa Bay Rays and they’re waiting on the Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics to finish their series in the Motor City. Personally, I was hoping my hometown Rays would win.
This weekend the League Championship series start and we know two of the teams that will play. For Dodgers fans it’s nothing short of incredible. If the Dodgers do win it all they will be as miraculous as the 1969 Mets and as unstoppable as the 1927 Yankees.
It could be called the Miracle from Chavez Ravine.
Claudia is of Peruvian and Italian descent, having been born in a small town, in the North of Peru, South America. She was raised by her grandmother from an early age, living in poverty until Claudia’s mother brought her to America. She landed in Miami, FL and started her new life, playing high school basketball and eventually becoming a United States citizen. Claudia completed her education at Florida International University with a BA in Broadcast Journalism and became a model to supplement her income. Since graduating from FIU Claudia has worked with many of the Spanish Language broadcasting companies, including Telemundo, Univision and most recently Spanish Language channels on SiriusXM satellite radio and 93.9 FM Exitos in Los Angeles. Just so you know where her loyalty lies: Go Lakers!