SAN DIEGO -- What better way for the Dodgers to mark Vin Scully's final season than to finally win another World Series?Dodgers fans have been waiting for the next one since 1988. They've have had four owners, eight general managers and nine field managers since Rick Dempsey hoisted Orel Hershiser
SAN DIEGO -- What better way for the Dodgers to mark Vin Scully's final season than to finally win another World Series?
Dodgers fans have been waiting for the next one since 1988. They've have had four owners, eight general managers and nine field managers since Rick Dempsey hoisted Orel Hershiser off the mound in Oakland, but not one World Series appearance.
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If that finally changes, here are three reasons why:
• Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill are (relatively) healthy
The Dodgers overcame injuries to both lefties to get into the postseason, but they can't expect to get far if they don't dominate. Of the two, Kershaw seems closer to his real self, rebounding from 2 1/2 months on the shelf with a herniated disk. He's been able to make regular turns on five-day cycles, but can he pitch on short rest, as he has done in past postseasons? If not, 20-year-old Julio Urías will be available for Game 4.
Hill's finger blisters are a greater concern. Management has spaced out his starts throughout September because of the blisters, which are on his left index and middle fingers. Relying on snapping hard breaking balls puts severe stress on that damaged skin, so the club has thread the needle between keeping his arm strong without overtaxing the fingers.
• The bullpen gets leads to Kenley Jansen
Across the board, the Dodgers' bullpen this year has done a better job protecting leads than last year's. Joe Blanton has excelled as the primary setup man for closer Jansen, a big reason why the Dodgers are 72-3 in games they led after seven innings. Blanton should get the innings that didn't go so well a year ago, when Pedro Báez was unable to get big outs against the Mets in the postseason.
Alex Wood has made a late bid to be a situational lefty after elbow surgery, as rookie Grant Dayton has become the primary left-hander. With Luis Avilán, Adam Liberatore, J.P. Howell and potential starter Urias, there won't be room for everybody. Right-hander Josh Ravin has pitched as well as anybody lately, but that's bittersweet, as he is ineligible because of a PED suspension earlier in the season.
• The offense can handle rested fastball pitchers
Sounds basic enough, but the Dodgers' offense last year couldn't handle Jacob deGrom twice or Noah Syndergaard, and it faces a reasonable facsimile this time in Max Scherzer. Stephen Strasburg, however, is injured. Justin Turner, who had a big series against the Mets last year, said this year's lineup is healthier (particularly Yasmani Grandal), and Joc Pederson is taking better at-bats. Turner also pointed out that the Dodgers' lineup is confident against any right-handed pitcher, no matter how hard he throws.
On the flip side, the Dodgers have struggled to be a .500 club against left-handed pitching.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.