ARLINGTON, Texas – Get used to this. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Atlanta Braves, who will play a winning game 7 take it all for the privilege of moving to the World Series on Sunday, will be here again. It may not be next year, or the year after, or even the next year, which simultaneously illustrates the variance of baseball and the excellence inherent in both teams, which are stacked enough to watch three years down the road and still strut their chances of success.
This was very evident in the National League Championship Series, which wasn̵
It is impossible to predict if this results in a 7 game to remember. 7 games are rare gifts to savor, and the fact that baseball offers two to its minions in a span of two days should make even the most fearful, disgusting, and data-hating buzzkill giddy.
This will determine the World Series opponent of the Tampa Bay Rays, which averted a historic slump in the American League Championship Series and defeated the Houston Astros in their game 7 on Saturday night. Whichever team the NL represents, this will be a meeting between building an organization and developing premium players – a showdown between teams operating in ways that draw envy from all over the game.
The Dodgers are here and will remain in this layer, for a myriad of reasons. They design and develop players better than any organization. They spend more money than anyone else. They balance the primal desire to chase championships with the discipline needed to build sustainability. The Dodgers are everyone’s worst nightmare: smart, talented, rich, patient, hungry.
However, the playoffs – and these playoffs in particular, with no rest days – take more than the Dodgers have to enter Game 7 confidently. Their starting pitcher is … well, manager Dave Roberts said he wasn’t sure, which is probably not true, because by the time Game 6 ended the Dodgers knew exactly what they had at their disposal. They could go with Tony Gonsolin, the rookie who got knocked out in Game 2, or with Julio Urias, their Game 3 starter who could also be a firefighter in the late inning, or with Brusdar Graterol, their 100 mph-sinkerballing right which would be just as valuable in the late inning. Clayton Kershaw, their former ace, who would work with two days off? Probably not, but he will be in the bullpen, like during Game 6, ready to go.
“We’re not done,” said Justin Turner, third baseman for the Dodgers. “We still have a lot to accomplish. We have an important one [Sunday]. We will prepare, we will enter and fight for each field and we will find a way to win a game. “
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The Braves don’t have fat pockets like the Dodgers, and their development pipeline isn’t filled with as much talent, yet what’s on their big league roster is intimidating. They are Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies, signed for economic and lasting contracts. It is Cristian Pache who roams the center of the field with the speed, precision and agility of a drone. It’s Mike Soroka, when he comes back from his torn Achilles, and it’s Max Fried, and it’s Ian Anderson, who entered these playoffs with six career starts, hasn’t given up on a race yet and will take the ball for Game 7.
“I have 100% confidence in Ian Anderson,” Fried said. “He’s as prepared and smart as they are. You wouldn’t know it was his rookie year from the way he manages himself, his poise and the way he conducts his business.”
The last game you win or go to Anderson’s house, he said, was in high school, which for the 22-year-old wasn’t particularly long ago. He exudes calm and poise, and his outing in Game 2 was unusually short and wild, which is what made him so impressive to pitch four shutout innings.
Quick hooks are de rigueur in Game 7, as Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash and Houston’s Dusty Baker in ALCS demonstrated, so Anderson and TBD printing their names in history books as the NLC hero may not be in the cards. If modern baseball dogma takes over, and probably will, the game will be determined by a group of three interconnected: the offenders, the bullpens and the managers.
Roberts and his counterpart, Brian Snitker, aren’t considered the same kind of bench chess player that is Kevin Cash of Tampa Bay. It’s hard not to see match 7 on Sunday through that goal, comparing everything each team does with Tampa Bay: the decisions they make, how they fit together, how it could be a showdown.
Ronald Acuna fielded a brace on the right line of the pitch scoring Nick Markakis to give the Braves their first round of the game.
The Rays are the Aldi of the Whole Foods of the Dodgers. Take away from Los Angeles’ ability to pay large sums of money and the organizations are very similar, which is not surprising given that the person who runs the Dodgers baseball operations, Andrew Friedman, was previously in charge in Tampa Bay. The Rays also share ideals with the Braves, who are seen as an old school franchise but came to NLCS Game 7 by leaning heavily on just two starting pitchers, which for a time was as Rays as it gets.
Tampa Bay can give itself 24 hours to celebrate before trying to figure out how its home run addict will thwart Globe Life by playing as an endless warehouse. The Rays have scored an unthinkable 72% of their runs this postseason on home runs, and if those end up being less and further apart, the Rays will need otherworldly throws against one of the two most dangerous formations in baseball or to figure out a completely new offensive strategy on the fly.
Then again, the big teams adapt. That’s what the Braves did at the start of this series when no one gave them a chance against Los Angeles. That’s what the Dodgers did when Atlanta went 3-1. And that’s what the World Series winner will do, whether it’s the Rays or the Dodgers or the Braves, next week.
For now, they’re just happy to be here. Because when some jabroni says “Get used to this”, a skeptic can say: Puppies. And it’s true: starting in 2016, the Cubs should have been at the start of a half-decade window of supremacy. It never materialized. And in NL, the San Diego Padres will definitely have something to say about an annual Dodgers-Braves clash. As well as the New York Mets owned by Steve Cohen, which could use the modus operandi of the Xerox Dodgers and give it some East Coast flavor.
Until then, we have this game 7. Whatever the sport, at any time, game 7 means more, even though Snitker said he’ll treat it like any other game. It won’t do it because it isn’t. It is, Roberts correctly said, “What you live for.” And for the many great matchups to come, the many years these teams are ready to be relevant, right now all they live for is to make sure they have a tomorrow.