Justin Turner called a team meeting before the Dodgers began the NLDS, just to remind teammates the postseason can be challenging, even for the best teams.
The Dodgers proceeded to sweep the Padres in the best-of-five series, reaffirming their position as the clear favorite from the National League to reach the World Series this year.
“It’s obvious we all know what’s at stake, and we all know what we’re playing for,” Turner, the former Mets infielder, said Sunday when asked about the meeting he conducted last week. “But just to remind guys not everything is going to go our way, it might not always be easy, but as long as we keep mentally grinding and supporting each other and playing as a group together, we’ll be all right, and we’ll get through anything.”
The latest “anything” for the Dodgers, in their attempt to break through and win the franchise’s first World Series since 1988, is a loaded Braves team that also hasn’t lost this postseason.
One team will sustain that initial setback Monday night, when the Braves and Dodgers play Game 1 of the NL Championship Series at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. The Dodgers will send Walker Buehler to the mound, and the Braves have lefty Max Fried ready.
Turner, who is playing in the NLCS for the fourth time in five years — the Dodgers lost in the division series last season to the eventual World Series-champion Nationals — was asked about the parallels between his team and the Braves.
“That’s a weird question this year because we didn’t get an opportunity to play them during the regular season,” Turner said. “We know they are a good club, and they are playing good baseball right now, and we are pretty confident in ourselves, so there is at least one parallel.”
Maybe the most surprising statistic is the Dodgers have hit only two homers in their five postseason games (Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager own them).
As always, the Dodgers have relied heavily on a deep bullpen that is ready for action once the third time through the batting order arrives. Blake Treinen has been the most reliable Dodgers reliever this postseason, with 3 ¹/₃ scoreless innings over four appearances.
If there is a home-field advantage, it belongs to the Dodgers, who played the NLDS in Arlington while the Braves were sweeping the Marlins in Houston. Even so, it’s far from the comforts of Dodger Stadium.
“At this point of the game, I don’t really see a huge advantage from playing here, but obviously we’re settled in and comfortable here, and [the Braves] have got to walk into a new clubhouse and atmosphere,” Buehler said. “But at the end of the day, it’s about what happens on the field, not what the clubhouse is like.”
Different for both teams will be the sight of fans for the first time this season, with about 11,000 expected to attend each of the games.
“It’s a step back toward normalcy, where people have the right to be free and make a choice to go out and do what they want to do,” Treinen said. “If they want to come to a ballgame, come to a ballgame. I know we have all certainly welcomed it, and we’re excited for it. It’s not fun playing baseball without fans.”
The Dodgers lost the World Series to the Astros and Red Sox, respectively, in 2017 and ’18. The missing title is unfinished business for a franchise that has dominated in the last six seasons. Would winning it in this pandemic-shortened season mean as much?
“It means as much,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “We have to get there first and still finish, take care of business. But in general, I think all players and managers feel the same: This industry was in a tough spot and to see where we’re at right now and, hopefully, we get through this and have a World Series champion, it’s quite an accomplishment, for everyone.”