LOS ANGELES -- After being swept by the D-backs in their last two regular-season series, the Dodgers flipped that script and swept Arizona in the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile. Here's what we learned as they did it:• Gear up for the National League Championship Series1. Clayton Kershaw
LOS ANGELES -- After being swept by the D-backs in their last two regular-season series, the Dodgers flipped that script and swept Arizona in the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile. Here's what we learned as they did it:
• Gear up for the National League Championship Series
1. Clayton Kershaw is mortal
OK, those of us having watched his 21.86 career ERA in the seventh inning of postseason games already knew this. Now manager Dave Roberts does. After Kershaw allowed back-to-back home runs in the seventh inning while winning Game 1 against the D-backs, Roberts hinted that the three-time Cy Young winner might be on a bit of a shorter leash next start, especially the way the Dodgers' bullpen is constructed and performing.
• NLCS Game 1: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on TBS
:: NLDS schedule and coverage ::
2. Kenley Jansen might not be mortal
There were so many position players contending for NL MVP Award this year that the Dodgers' closer is sure to be overlooked in the voting. Yet, how many of those position players are more valuable to their club than Jansen is to his? Maybe none. As was evident in the NLDS, Roberts manages the game and the bullpen around the presence of Jansen. Kershaw admits he takes the Big Man for granted. That's why the Dodgers spent $80 million to keep him.
3. Kenta Maeda is a relief "beast"
That's pitching coach Rick Honeycutt's term for the bullpen's unexpected weapon. Maeda is one of those starters whose velocity jumped and breaking ball broke sharper when he went to the bullpen. Maybe he was just trying to pace himself as a starter. He would rather be a starter, but credit Maeda for embracing the conversion and turning into a game changer.
4. It really is Austin Barnes' time
That's what Roberts said at last year's Winter Meetings when reporters wondered if the club was looking for a veteran to back up Yasmani Grandal. Dodgers talent evaluators were spot on with Barnes and his emergence as a viable first-stringer -- which helps balance out the 2014 trade of Dee Gordon, Dan Haren and Miguel Rojas to the Marlins for Barnes, Chris Hatcher, Enrique Hernandez and Andrew Heaney (flipped for Howie Kendrick).
5. Brandon Morrow is reborn
Almost every time the Dodgers reach the postseason, they are boosted by a reclamation project, an overlooked late addition who surpasses all expectations. Last year, it was Joe Blanton. In 2014, it was Justin Turner. This year, it's Morrow, who didn't even reach the big league club until late May after battling injuries for four years. But a 100-mph fastball "plays," as Roberts likes to say, and when Pedro Baez began to struggle, Morrow stepped up to be a reliable setup man for Jansen.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.