What’s different this time for the Dodgers, now one win away from a long-awaited championship

Mike Oz
·3-min read

This time it will be different. That’s what the Dodgers have been hoping, what their fans have been saying and what — quite frankly — the results of this 60-game season and month-long playoff spring have been showing us.

“This is our year,” manager Dave Roberts proclaimed after the Dodgers advanced to the World Series. Five games later, he doesn’t look wrong.

This time the Dodgers might not leave October baseball hanging their heads and wondering what went wrong. This time it might actually be their year.

After another commanding win in Game 5 of the World Series against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday night, one thing is definitely different: For the time since 1988, the Dodgers have more than one chance at closing out a World Series.

It may seem like a small thing, but it’s not. This Dodgers team is playing itself as much as it’s playing that Rays. It is trying to exorcise its own postseason history as much as it’s trying to win four games. Having more than once chance at it? Feels like a luxury.

The Dodgers can close out their first World Series since 1988 with a win Tuesday. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
The Dodgers can close out their first World Series since 1988 with a win Tuesday. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

It’s sort of incredible when you think about it. As overwhelming as the narrative has become that the Dodgers are chokers in October, they haven’t been in this exact position in 32 years. Not since that World Series when Kirk Gibson limped around the bases after walking off the A’s.

Their Game 5 win — a 4-2 decision that came with Clayton Kershaw on the mound to start and Joc Pederson and Max Muncy hitting homers — gave the Dodgers a 3-2 series advantage.

While baseball fans everywhere are well aware of October ghosts that haunt the Dodgers, you might be surprised to recall that in their previous two World Series losses, the Dodgers have had a series advantage only once — when they went up 1-0 against the Astros in 2017. They trailed the entire time against the Red Sox in 2018.

That 2017 series was a back-and-forth battle with a stunning Game 5 that mirrored Game 4 of this series, down to the unlikely comeback and gut-wrenching walk-off against Kenley Jansen. The Dodgers had a chance to close out the Astros that year, sure, but only in a Game 7 that was just about over when the Astros scored five runs in the first two innings.

Where the Dodgers sit now is new territory. A World Series with a little bit of room to breathe.

So they’ll send Tony Gonsolin out in Game 6 on Tuesday, fully prepared to lean on their bullpen like they did when Gonsolin started Game 2 of this series. They’ll certainly hope that Gonsolin gives them more than the 1 ⅓ innings they got in Game 2, but they’ll have more arms ready if they’re dealt another dud from their rookie.

Game 2 was the only one in this series that the Dodgers seemed beaten. They lost Game 4, but were competitive the entire time, losing on what optimistically could be viewed as the worst possible fluke.

The worst-case scenario for L.A. would be a Game 2 replay. Fact is the Dodgers pitchers are more rested than they were a week ago, coming off a seven-game series with the Braves. And if even they whiff in Game 6, they’re still alive to try again in Game 7 with Walker Buehler on the mound.

Imagine that. A Dodgers postseason where everything doesn’t feel like it’s one step from implosion or one over-worked Kershaw pitch way from doom.

That’s different this time around too.

Maybe this is finally their year. Maybe it just took 32 years for everything to line up correctly again.

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