2018 Los Angeles Dodgers
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2018 Los Angeles Dodgers / Franchise: Los Angeles Dodgers / BR Team Page
Clinched Division: October 1, 2018, vs. Colorado Rockies
Won NL Pennant
Managed by Dave Roberts
History, Comments, Contributions
Coming off making it to the seventh game of the 2017 World Series, the 2018 Los Angeles Dodgers were hoping to go all the way, after winning the NL West title for five consecutive years. However, the season started with a hiccup, as they were shut out, 1-0, on Opening Day, March 29th, and again by the same score the next day in spite of Alex Wood allowing just 1 hit in 8 scoreless innings. In both games, a solo homer by Joe Panik of the San Francisco Giants, first off ace Clayton Kershaw and then against closer Kenley Jansen, were the only runs in the two contests. But just as fans were starting to panic about the lack of hitting, the Dodgers won their next two games over the Giants by a combined score of 14-0, with Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill both shining on the mound and the hitters starting to do their thing. Still, by all accounts, the first month went badly. Deprived of its leader, Justin Turner, placed on the disabled list following a hit by pitch at the end of spring training, the offense sputtered al month. As a result, at the end of the day on April 30th, the Dodgers had a record of 12-16 and were 8 games behind the division leaders, the Arizona Diamondbacks. That day was a particularly bad one, as the Dodgers announced that All-Star SS Corey Seager would have to undergo Tommy John surgery because of a sprained ligament in his elbow and would miss the rest of the season. They then lost that night's game to the Diamondbacks, 8-5, behind a three-homer performance by A.J. Pollock. It was the D-Backs' sixth win in seven contests between the two teams, and that went a long way towards explaining why the Dodgers were now 8 games behind the division leaders. More bad news hit on May 2nd when P Hyun-Jin Ryu tore a hamstring muscle, putting him out of action until the second half.
On May 4th, the Dodgers played the first game of a three-game series against the San Diego Padres at Estadio de béisbol Monterrey in Monterrey, Nuevo León. It turned out to be a historic day, as rookie Walker Buehler started things off by tossing six scoreless innings, and the three men who succeeded him on the mound - Tony Cingrani, Yimi Garcia and Adam Liberatore - tossed a hitless inning each to complete a combined no-hitter, which Los Angeles won, 4-0. It was the first no-hitter to be pitched outside the United States and Canada. The Dodgers lost the next two contests and on May 6th suffered another debilitating injury when ace Clayton Kershaw was placed on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis. Others on the DL at the time, in addition to Turner, Seager and Ryu were OF Yasiel Puig, 2B Logan Forsythe and P Rich Hill. The Dodgers hit a low point on May 10-13 when they were swept in a four-game series at home by the Cincinnati Reds, who until then had the worst record in the league. The losing streak reached six games before the Dodgers finally beat the Miami Marlins, 7-0, to end the skid on May 17th. However, when that game began, the Dodgers, coming off an appearance in the World Series, and Marlins, who had gone through a fire sale, had the same record, an irony which writers did not fail to note. One othe good point from that game was that 3B Justin Turner, who had finally made his season's debut two days earlier, showed he was back in good form by driving in 5 runs. They managed to sweep a doubleheader against the Washington Nationals on May 19th, but that came with a cost as well, as in the nitecap, Rich Hill, who had already made one visit to the DL with a blister problem, left the game after throwing just two pitches, forcing the Dodgers to use seven relievers to finish the game. The Dodgers managed to sweep the Nats, continuing their strange pattern of playing a lot better against contending teams than against those they should beat easily.
Kershaw returned to the mound on June 23rd, then the next day, the Dodgers hit seven solo homers in a strange 8-7 win over the New York Mets, the last being a blast by Turner in the 11th inning. The seven solo shots tied a National League record. The homers contributed to the Dodgers tying a club record for homers in a single month with 53; the record had been set the previous June. They hit two more homer before the end of the month, setting the new record at 55. On July 12th, they finally found themselves alone in first place for the first time of the year, having completed their slow climb back up the standings, having been as many as 10 games back in May. They were 8-3 in July and 35-17 since May 24th following a 3-2 win over the Padres. They had also the highest winning percentage in the NL since June 1st, another sign that the pieces were finally falling into place. One of the unlikely heroes of that climb was utility player Max Muncy, who was one of the league leaders in homers with 21 after spending all of 2017 in the minors. He had parlayed in first-half success into a spot in the Final Man Vote for the All-Star Game, quite an accomplishment even if he was not successful, losing out to another Cinderella-story, Jesus Aguilar, and also into participation in the Home Run Derby preceding the game.
The day after the All-Star Game, on July 18th, they pulled off a major deal that had been rumored to be int he works for several weeks: they sent five prospects, the most prominent of which was Cuban OF Yusniel Diaz, to the Baltimore Orioles in return for SS Manny Machado, due to become a free agent at the end of the season. Contrary to what had been the case the previous year, they were willing to pay a steep price in order to get their hands on the best player available on the market. On July 24th, trying to hold on to their slim lead atop the division, they got into a marathon game with the Philadelphia Phillies that ended with utility player Kiké Hernandez giving up a 16th-inning walk-off homer to Trevor Plouffe for a 7-4 loss. Henriquez had gone 0 for 7 in the game before being pressed into mound duty, having previously played in both the infield and outfield in the game. He was the first position player ever to give up a walk-off shot.
While Kiké's relief appearance was an accident, it displayed the fact that the bullpen was now the team's weakest link, and one that the Dodgers had not been able to address at the trading deadline, when they instead focused on strengthening the middle of their infield with the acquisition of SS Manny Machado and 2B Brian Dozier in separate trades. The bullpen woes came into focus in early August, when closer Kenley Jansen had to be hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat, and his replacements were not up to the task. The bullpen lost four straight games from August 10-13, including three blown saves, helping the Dodgers lose the division lead they had battled so hard to grab back. The culprits were all marginal major leaguers: Zac Rosscup, J.T. Chargois, Scott Alexander and Dylan Floro, as key pitchers Daniel Hudson, Josh Fields and John Axford, the latter the sole mid-season addition to the bullpen, were all out with injuries in addition to Jansen. To address this, the Dodgers took advantage of the return of Alex Wood from the DL to send Kenta Maeda to the starting rotation to the bullpen and to have All-Star Ross Stripling, himself coming off the DL, be there as well in order to add a couple of veterans to the beleaguered group. They made a couple of last-minute deals on August 31st, acquiring P Ryan Madson from the Nationals and 3B David Freese from the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Dodgers were locked in battle with the Colorado Rockies for all of September, as a very hot month by Colorado put them one game ahead in the NL West before the final week-end. The Dodgers managed to close the gap on September 29th, the season's penultimate game, with a 10-6 win over the Giants while the Rockies lost. That win also clinched a postseason slot for the team. It was the team's sixth straight postseason appearance. Both teams needed to win on the final day of the season, and both did, by large margins, with the Dodgers blasting the Giants 15-0 to force a one-game playoff against the Rockies. They left nothing to chance in that game, scoring 9 runs in the first three innings while Rich Hill gave up just 2 hits over 7 innings. They managed to win the playoff game, 5-2, on October 1st, behind rookie Buehler's 8th win to secure their 6th straight division title. They also set a franchise record for home runs with 235, although that would be shattered the following season. In the postseason, they disposed of the Atlanta Braves in the Division Series, three games to one, then were taken to the limit of seven games by the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS but won the decisive game to return to the World Series. There they faced a very hot Boston Red Sox team that won four of five games; L.A.'s only win came in an 18-inning marathon in Game 3 thanks to a homer by Cinderella-man Muncy. It was the final highlight of a great, but ultimately unsuccessful season for the Dodgers.
Awards and Honors
- All-Stars: Kenley Jansen, Matt Kemp and Ross Stripling
- 2018 Topps All-Star Rookie Team: Walker Buehler (RhP)
- 2022 Los Angeles Dodgers Media Guide, pg. 370
- Associated Press: "Dodgers a threat to get back to World Series in 2018", USA Today Sports, March 22, 2018. 
- Ken Gurnick: "The Top 10 Dodgers Moments of 2018", mlb.com, September 29, 2018. 
- Will Leitch: "Here's why the Dodgers are going to be just fine", mlb.com, May 120, 2018. 
- Will Leitch; "Dodgers could be on same path as 2006 Cards", mlb.com, October 10, 2018. 
- Mike Lupica: "'Blue-collar' Dodgers grinding way down stretch: LA playing 'October baseball in September' in heated pennant race", mlb.com, September 21, 2018. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Why the Dodgers will respond vigorously to Corey Seager's season-ending loss", USA Today Sports, May 1, 2018. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Dodgers seize moment, go all-in with trade for Manny Machado", USA Today Sports, July 18, 2018.