Although the first two contests in the the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile were high-scoring affairs, the third game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks was dominated by pitching.
Yu Darvish, a non-waiver Trade Deadline acquisition, showed why the Dodgers wanted him. For the first five innings, he dominated the D-backs, allowing one solo home run to Daniel Descalso. Cody Bellinger demonstrated his power and defensive prowess to enable the Dodgers to win the series-clinching game.
The D-backs had quite an accomplishment when they appeared in the NLDS for the first time since 2011. Practically nobody thought they would be a factor in the NL West after a 69-93 record in 2016, but with their improved pitching staff and a healthy A.J. Pollock, the D-backs had 93 victories in 2017. If they didn't have to wear out their pitching staff in the NL Wild Card Game against the Colorado Rockies, they might have fared better in the NLDS.
During the NLDS, the D-backs only scored one run without the aid of the home run. This won't do the job in the postseason. The Dodgers allowed only two multi-run homers during the NLDS. When the Dodgers didn't chase balls out of the strike zone, the pitchers for Arizona had difficulty retiring them and keeping their pitch counts manageable. The inability of their starters to go long into the game was what made the D-backs lose the NLDS. If the D-backs' pitching staff continues to mature, Arizona should be a factor in the NL for many years to come.
Although Zack Greinke allowed three runs in five innings, he pitched better than any other starter for the D-backs during the series. He was constantly in trouble because the Dodgers refused to chase balls out of the strike zone. He made the Dodgers strand many runners in scoring position for the first time in the series. Since the Dodgers had seen Greinke at least twice during the season, they knew to be patient with him, causing Greinke to issue five walks.
Before Monday's game, Bellinger had been quiet during the NLDS. He didn't finish the regular season strong, either. It wasn't surprising considering he hasn't played as much as he has in 2017 before in his baseball career. However, on Monday he awakened from his offensive slump to show people why he probably will win the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Without Bellinger's offensive production and defensive prowess, the Dodgers might have needed Game 4.
The Dodgers promoted Bellinger in mid-April to give the team youthful enthusiasm, and it was evident Monday. In the first inning, he had a run-scoring grounder. He also had a monstrous home run. His glove and willingness to sacrifice the body when he made a diving catch of a foul ball into the Dodger dugout helped the pitchers conserve throws and prevented the Arizona offense from getting more scoring opportunities.
Austin Barnes homered and handled the pitching staff beautifully. The biggest difference in the NLDS between the Dodgers and the D-backs was the effectiveness of the bullpen. The Dodgers relievers were never overwhelmed by the situation. On Monday night, the Dodgers had perfect relief work. Having Kenta Maeda in the bullpen was a giant plus. Maeda, a converted starter for the postseason, pitched two perfect innings during the NLDS.
Whoever advances to the NLCS will have their hands full if the Dodgers continue playing as they did in the NLDS.
Sarah D. Morris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.