Dodgers finish off Braves in four games, advance to NLCS

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The Dodgers have punched their ticket to the NLCS.

Thanks to some late-inning heroics from Juan Uribe, the Dodgers defeated the Braves 4-3 tonight at Dodger Stadium to finish off the NLDS in four games. This will be the franchise’s 10th trip to the NLCS and their first since 2009.

The Dodgers jumped out to an early 2-0 lead behind a pair of solo homers from Carl Crawford, but the Braves found their way back into the game behind a pair of defensive miscues in the top of the fourth inning. Clayton Kershaw did fine on short rest, allowing two unearned runs over six innings, but Freddy Garcia matched him for the most part. Atlanta would eventually take the lead in the top of the seventh inning via an RBI single from Jose Constanza, but the Dodgers pulled ahead for good when Uribe took David Carpenter deep for a dramatic two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning. The go-ahead homer was set up on a double by Yasiel Puig. Kenley Jansen struck out the side in the ninth inning to lock down the victory.

While the Dodgers have advanced, they’ll won’t know their opponent until the Pirates and Cardinals square off in Game 5 of their series on Wednesday. The NLCS is set to begin on Friday and Zack Greinke should be lined up for the assignment.

Nationals’ sell-off a vindication for Dusty Baker

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The Nationals threw in the towel on Tuesday, trading second baseman Daniel Murphy to the Cubs and 1B/OF Matt Adams to the Cardinals. The club also placed outfielder and soon-to-be free agent Bryce Harper on revocable waivers but took him back. The Nats’ sell-off is a vindication for former manager Dusty Baker, let go after the Nationals failed to advance past the NLDS for a second straight year.

Baker had roughly the same team current manager Dave Martinez did. It was arguably worse, considering he never wrote Juan Soto‘s name on the lineup card. The 2018 squad, sans Baker, has been marked by mutiny and underachievement. While failing to reach the NLCS in Baker’s two years was disappointing, he took them to Game 5 in the NLDS both years as well as 95 and 97 regular season wins. Right now, Martinez’s squad has a winning percentage more than 100 points lower than Baker’s last year. They’re on pace to go 80-82, which would be their first sub-.500 season since 2011.

Baker has always had an undeserved bad rap. He was, correctly, blamed for the Cubs’ demise, due somewhat to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior falling apart, ostensibly from overuse. However, after his stint in Chicago, Baker took the lowly Reds from the bottom of the NL Central to the top in two years between 2008-10. Then he took the Nationals, which had won a meager 83 games in 2015 and had made the playoffs just twice since moving from Montreal, to two consecutive NLDS Game 5’s.

Not much changed from 2017 to ’18. Martinez inherited Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Michael Taylor, Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Daniel Murphy, Matt Wieters, Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, Shawn Kelley, and Koda Glover, among others. But for one reason or another — injuries, admittedly, make up one reason — almost all of these players are having worse years under Martinez than under Baker. Describing the 2018 team to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Baker said, “They’re together, but they’re separate.”

Is it strictly Baker that would make the difference? No, of course not. But the Nationals organization seems unwilling or unable to address issues that may extend into the front office. The Nats seem happy to go through a new manager every couple of years and hope that fixes all that ails them. Since Frank Robinson’s five years at the helm from 2002-06, Manny Acta managed two and a half years, Jim Riggleman one and a half, Davey Johnson two, Matt Williams two, Baker two. Maybe the problem was never the manager. Perhaps the problem is the Lerner family and Mike Rizzo.