Game Day: Will it be the Dodgers’ moment?

Editor’s note: This is the Monday Oct. 10 edition of the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.

Good morning. The first three days of playoff baseball offered a reminder that the Dodgers will have to earn anything they get over the next month. Thoughts on that after a look at other sports news:

The Rams fell to 2-3 with a loss to the Cowboys as Matthew Stafford was sacked five more times, and columnist Jim Alexander says offensive-line injuries are hurting the whole team.
The Chargers are 3-2 after a wild win over the Browns, but coach Brandon Staley faced questions about a fourth-down decision again.
UCLA jumped to a No. 11 ranking after its win over Utah.
USC is perfect in the standings but far from it on the field.
The Galaxy won its finale and hosts Nashville in the playoffs.
LAFC gets a first-round bye and awaits the Galaxy-Nashville winner.
And England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff won for the first time in 12 LPGA seasons in the Mediheal Championship near Ventura.

A Dodgers-Padres Division Series matchup is set, starting at Dodger Stadium tomorrow night (6:30 p.m.), after San Diego eliminated the Mets yesterday. Padres starter Joe Musgrove, who’d been 0-5 against the Mets and lost to them 8-5 in July, chose this night to pitch seven innings of one-hit ball. That’s the kind of October weirdness that happened all weekend.

The regular season is the Dodgers’ 111 wins over six months, Aaron Judge’s 62 home runs across 162 games, Shohei Ohtani’s record-setting two-way durability, and the cream rising to the top as ups and downs even out.

The playoffs are the Guardians scoring in the 15th inning to beat the Rays in the longest 0-0 playoff game ever, the Phillies trailing the Cardinals 2-0 but scoring six runs in the ninth to win, the Mariners falling behind the Blue Jays 8-1 before making the biggest comeback by the visitors in a postseason game, and the lower-seeded Phillies and Mariners sweeping best-of-three wild-card series on the road.

The Dodgers should be confident against the Padres, having beaten them in 23 of the teams’ past 28 regular-season meetings and finished 22 games ahead of them in the standings, but a best-of-five series playoff series doesn’t necessarily follow regular-season logic.

The playoffs are about moments, and Major League Baseball expanded the playoffs to 12 teams this year to create more moments, to satisfy shorter attention spans and generations that click on video before box scores.

As far as that goes, it has worked already: Baseball presented more do-or-die, “elimination games” in the past three days (five) than it did in the entire 1988 postseason (four), which most Dodgers fans will remember as the most thrilling of their lifetime.

April through September is then, October is now.

The best you can do to try to figure out what the regular season predicts for the playoffs is to look at the most relevant slice of the regular season: What the most important players in these series did most recently against October-quality opponents. I looked at how the playoff teams’ top three starting pitchers fared against this year’s playoff teams between the Aug. 2 trade deadline and the end of the season. There’s good news and bad news for the Dodgers.

When the Dodgers had Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw and Tyler Anderson pitching, they went 5-3 against other playoff-bound teams from Aug. 3 on, including 4-1 against the Padres. By my back-of-an-envelope estimation, those starters pitched well enough to go 8-0 but the bullpen or offense let them down three times. That 5-3 looks fine, matching the Astros for third-best.

Second-best was the Blue Jays (7-4), who are already eliminated. Best was the team that eliminated the Jays, namely the Mariners (8-4).

Seeing that was enough for me to have a friend in Las Vegas place small bets Friday morning on the Mariners at 8-1 odds to win the American League pennant and 15-1 to win the World Series. So far, so good, and a long way to go.

That’s the healthy way to look at this as the Dodgers gaze back at the best full regular season in the club’s 139 years and stare ahead at the potential of two playoff rounds and a World Series. So far, so good – and a long way to go.

TODAY

Santa Anita runs a 10-race holiday Monday card (1 p.m.).

NEXT QUESTION

Do you like baseball’s new playoff format, which expanded the field to 12 teams and replaced the two one-game wild-card playoffs with four best-of-three series? Respond by email to KModesti@scng.com or on Twitter at @KevinModesti.

280 CHARACTERS

I wish UCLA vs. USC was this week.

— James H. Williams covers UCLA football (@JHWreporter) October 10, 2022

– James H. Williams (@JHWreporter), who writes about the Bruins for the SCNG papers

1,000 WORDS

Here’s the newsletter’s weekly photo of Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford getting sacked, showing Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons forcing a fumble in the second half of Dallas’ 22-10 victory at SoFi Stadium. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/ Pasadena Star-News and SCNG)

 

TALK TO ME

Thanks for reading the newsletter. Send suggestions, comments and questions by email at KModesti@scng.com and via Twitter @KevinModesti.

Editor’s note: Thanks for reading the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.

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