Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The Los Angeles Dodgers had some signs of vulnerability heading into their National League Championship Series matchup with the Atlanta Braves, but nevertheless remained a favorite to return to the World Series.
Coming off a grueling five-game NL Division Series with the San Francisco Giants, the Dodgers remained on the road because they reached the postseason as the Wild Card team compared to the Braves winning the NL East.
What unfolded was identical to last year’s meeting, as L.A. dropped the first two games and then faced a 3-1 deficit. Mookie Betts noted differences with the 2021 NLCS, and the outcome eventually supported that.
The Dodgers had their quest to repeat as World Series champions come to an end Saturday night with a Game 6 loss. Eddie Rosario continued to be a thorn in the Dodgers’ side and his three-run blast off Walker Buehler in the fourth inning ultimately proved to be insurmountable.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts faced criticism for his in-game decisions during various parts of the NLCS, but the team was upended by other factors.
Starting pitching on fumes
After closing out the Giants in the NLDS, Max Scherzer was unable to start Game 1 against the Braves as originally planned. Arm fatigue pushed his expected start back one night to allow for more recovery time, but even when it came, Scherzer threw just 79 pitches.
Scherzer admitted after his outing that he dealt with a “dead arm.” Despite confidence it would not be an issue moving forward, it prevented the future Hall of Famer from pitching again in the NLCS. Scherzer was hopeful to take the ball in a Game 7 if the Dodgers extended the series.
Game 2 also proved to be a pitfall for Julio Urias, who was asked to appear out of the bullpen. Urias then wasn’t sharp in his start three days later. He denied the relief appearance affected him, and while that may hold true, Urias far and away set a career high with 202.2 combined innings pitched between the regular season and playoffs.
That also applied to Buehler, who tossed 226 innings this year and started on short rest for the first time in his career — doing so twice. The Dodgers needing to lean on Buehler throughout the regular season appeared to have caught up to him a bit.
Buehler established himself as one of the best postseason pitchers, but sported a 4.91 ERA this October.
Even with average performances from their starting pitchers, the Dodgers remained competitive in every postseason game. More costly than not receiving dominant outings was the team’s situational hitting.
The Dodgers fared well in such situations during the final week of the regular season but failed to carry that into the playoffs. In the NLCS specifically, they hit .250/.330/.425 with 52 strikeouts in 200 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Of course, overall hitting wasn’t exactly a strong suit as the Dodgers had several players go into untimely slumps.
While the Giants didn’t have Brandon Belt and the Braves had gone several months without Ronald Acuña Jr., it’s difficult to look past the rash of injuries the Dodgers absorbed in a short period of time.
Clayton Kershaw and Max Muncy were lost over the final weekend of the regular season, then Justin Turner and Joe Kelly during the NLCS.
Kershaw’s absence further exacerbated the Dodgers’ starting pitching woes. Muncy being out of the lineup put more pressure on a modest group of bench players and took a disciplined hitter away from a team that stood to benefit from being more selective.
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