One half of the 2017 World Series is set. The Los Angeles Dodgers routed the Chicago Cubs 11-1 in Game 5 of the NLCS to win the series 4-1, advancing to their first World Series since 1988.
— MLB (@MLB) October 20, 2017
With a lopsided series like this, we have plenty of winners and losers to choose from. The list of winners is so vast that Game 5 star Enrique Hernandez — who hit three home runs in the clinching game — is only honorable mention. Similarly, Game 5 loser Jose Quintana is not one of the main losers, despite recording a 10.29 ERA during the series.
These are the biggest winners and losers from the 2017 NLCS.
Winner: Justin Turner
Turner could hardly have done more for the Dodgers in this series. He had two home runs (including the walk-off shot in Game 2), drove in seven, and slashed at .333/.478/.667.
Mind you, this came on the heels of a .462/.533/.692 performance in the NLDS sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Los Angeles has the best team remaining in the playoffs. But the postseason isn’t always about who has the best team. The playoffs are about which teams’ best players are playing the best. The Dodgers haven’t had that a lot over the last five years. But in 2017, Los Angeles’ stars have shone brighter than anyone else’s.
That charge has been led by Turner.
Loser: Kris Bryant
While things went swimmingly for the Dodgers’ third baseman, the same can’t be said for Chicago’s. Ahead of Game 3, Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon said that Bryant was having a confidence issue. Watching him throughout the series, it’s hard to argue.
Bryant struggled to do anything significant throughout the NLCS. He slashed at .200/.200/.350. Even that was aided by a Game 5 home run that was nothing more than cosmetic.
Winning a series against a team like Los Angeles is tough enough. The Dodgers won 104 games in the regular season. Making matters worse, the Cubs would have had to win at least one game at Dodger Stadium, where Los Angeles was 57-24 during the regular season.
Beating that formidable of an opponent is hard. But with Bryant struggling, it became impossible.
Winner: Chris Taylor
When trying to figure out why the Dodgers won the Series, we can look at this simple fact. As good of a series as Turner had, Taylor deserved to be the co-MVP with him.
— MLB (@MLB) October 20, 2017
He was a catalyst at the top of the Dodgers’ order, slashing .316/.458/.789. That gave the likes of Turner, Yasiel Puig, and Cody Bellinger, the chance to hit with men on base.
Essentially no pitching staff is going to shut an offense like this down. The key to beating the Dodgers will be limiting the big hits to when the bases are empty.
When Taylor is getting on base at that kind of clip, the talented lineup hitting behind him almost can’t help but drive him in.
Loser: Anthony Rizzo
Bryant wasn’t the only Cubs’ slugger to struggle in this series. His good buddy in the heart of the order did very little, as well, hitting .059/.158/.059.
To a degree, we have to give the Dodgers’ defense some credit for that. Rizzo did lace several well hit balls right into the shift.
Still, the shift won’t do anything to keep the ball in the park. Rizzo was Chicago’s home run leader on the season, hitting 32. But in a series where his team scored all of its runs via the home run, Rizzo couldn’t join the party. If you had told us that before the series, a five-game loss would have been a best-case scenario for the Cubs.
Winner: Yasiel Puig
Puig has been a controversial figure in baseball since breaking into the bigs in 2013. Certainly, his flaws (on and off of the field) have drawn a great deal of attention. But fair is fair. If we’re going to pick his flaws apart, we have to give credit when he succeeds.
Puig succeeded a lot in the NLCS.
He slashed at .389/.500/.611 with a home run in the series. He was a consistently strong presence in the lineup. When he was moved up in the order, Puig looming in the on deck circle contributed to getting Bellinger better pitches to hit.
Puig has been a frustrating player throughout his career. But in these playoffs, he’s been nothing but good for the Dodgers. If he keeps hitting, the American League champion will have its hands full.
Loser: Joe Maddon
We acknowledge that not everything that went wrong can be pinned on Maddon. As we detailed with Bryant and Rizzo, his best players didn’t produce. When that happens against any team, the chances of winning are slim to none. When it happens against a team like the Dodgers, slim leaves the equation.
Very little went right for Maddon. When he seemed to make the right move, his players didn’t come through. When he tried to go outside of the box (like using John Lackey to pitch to Turner in the ninth inning of Game 2), it had disastrous results.
Even the Game 4 win came at a heavy cost, with Maddon having to use Wade Davis for two innings, burning his closer for Game 5. As it turned out, Game 5 was over early. But Chicago would have had a hard time protecting a late lead, anyway.
Essentially everything about this NLCS was a nightmare. That’s not all on Maddon. Still, this NLCS will not be a career highlight for him.
Winner: Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw had a good NLCS. He won both of his starts, putting up a 2.45 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, while striking out nine. But the bigger narrative makes him a winner here.
Kershaw has been dogged throughout his career for poor playoff performance. The Dodgers were sent home early in the playoffs every year from 2013-2016, and three of those four trips ended with poor starts from Kershaw.
The “Kershaw is a choker” narrative is getting harder to push now. Yes, he was given ample run support in the Game 5 clincher. But he also didn’t allow the Cubs any opportunities to get momentum back in the early innings. We don’t know how this game would have played out if Chicago tied the game quickly, after Los Angeles was up 1-0 or 2-0. We don’t know that because Kershaw was just a shut down pitcher.
Now, for the first time in his career, this generation’s best pitcher will have a chance to shine on the game’s biggest stage.