LOS ANGELES -- If an Interleague series in August can be projected as a World Series preview, the Yankees are ready for it.
A 5-1 win in the rubber game between the storied franchises illustrated the strengths of the Yankees, from their slugging (three more homers off Clayton Kershaw), to their starting pitching (Domingo German’s 17th win) to their bullpen (Aroldis Chapman struck out the side to end it).
Meanwhile, the Dodgers were outscored by the Yankees in the series, 16-5, and out-homered, 9-2. The Dodgers have scored more than three runs only once in their last eight games. They went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position on Sunday and 2-for-16 in the series. The only Dodgers win in the series, 2-1 on Saturday, was impacted by a controversial umpire decision.
So, do they match up against the best team in the American League?
“They definitely mirror our club,” said manager Dave Roberts. “It’s a fun team to compete against and they got the best of us this series. I think we match up well.”
Runaway division leaders and favorites to reach the World Series for a third consecutive season, the Dodgers tried to minimize fantasizing over an October rematch from the start of the series until its end.
“I don’t think this series changed my thought that these are two very good ballclubs,” said Roberts, "but we both have a lot of work to do if there is a potential [World Series] matchup.”
The Dodgers apparently have more work to do than the Yankees. They offered several explanations for the game and series outcome. Unfamiliarity with the Yankees' pitchers, particularly James Paxton and German. Shadows from the 4:07 p.m. start time. Several wasted at-bats.
“We did get a little bit impatient,” said Roberts, who got a home run from Joc Pederson on the first Yankees pitch of the game but nothing else run-producing on the next 120 pitches. “To make no excuse, Domingo threw the heck out of the baseball.”
Max Muncy said one key to the Dodgers’ success this year has been focusing on the present without looking behind or ahead, but he acknowledged it was hard to ignore the potential of a Fall Classic preview.
“It was absolutely exciting. It’s hard not to let it creep into your head that this could be a preview of something in the fall,” Muncy said. “But it’s something we’ve worked hard on in this clubhouse. It was a fun weekend, it was a loud weekend. The atmosphere was great, the fans were unbelievable. Even though we lost, it was fun.”
Kershaw (13-3) has allowed six home runs in his last 13 innings and 21 on the season, two shy of his career high. He also struck out a season-high 12 with no walks in seven innings, but his Interleague win streak was snapped at 11.
“I made four mistakes and three of them went over the fence,” Kershaw said. “The curveballs got me today. I’ve always said solo home runs won’t beat you, but three probably will. I don’t know if facing them gives you more or less help, hopefully we can find out in October.”
He hung 1-1 curveballs for homers to DJ LeMahieu leading off the game and Aaron Judge (who homered in each game of the series), but Kershaw said he was most annoyed at the third one by Mike Ford on a fastball.
“The result part obviously matters. But the way he’s throwing the baseball compared to the last couple of times, I’ll bet on the result,” Roberts said of Kershaw. “Clayton today threw the heck out of it and we didn’t give him any support. To look at the takeaway of him throwing three home runs, that’s a little shortsighted.”