In part 1, I highlighted the best moments from 2010-2014. Now it’s time for the cream of the crop from 2015-2019. Let’s dig in!
Charlie Culberson’s Walk-Off Sends Vin Scully Out in Style
2016 was a crucial year for the Los Angeles Dodgers in many regards. After two straight first round exits under Don Mattingly, the team sought to go deeper with new manager Dave Roberts. He would be tested greatly, with countless injuries (including an especially long one for Clayton Kershaw) and a gaping deficit early on in the division race with the Giants.
Most importantly, it was the final year of perhaps the greatest announcer in baseball history, Vin Scully. It only made sense that the team would cap off a long climb out of the abyss with a division-clincher in Scully’s last home game. But after the usually untouchable Kenley Jansen gave up a solo shot in the 9th, it looked like the team was going to blasphemously ruin the occasion.
Fortunately, eventual Rookie of the Year Corey Seager saved the day with a game-tying solo shot in the bottom of the 9th. Then, in the 10th, previously unrenowned utility man Charlie Culberson rocketed a solo shot into left to clinch the division.
The party was on, as was a sweet farewell to the legend.
Kenley and Kershaw Go Above and Beyond to Win the NLDS
After two straight NLDS exits, the Dodgers had much on the line in game 5 of the 2016 division series against the Nationals. Especially deploying a bullpen game against Max Scherzer, things looked grim as they trailed 1-0 in the top of the 7th. But after Joc Pederson cranked a game-tying solo shot to chase the Washington ace, Carlos Ruiz and Justin Turner piled on to make it 4-1.
However, Grant Dayton surrendered a two-run blast to old friend Chris Heisey, and it was 4-3. That’s when Dave Roberts decided to push his hottest hands as far as they can go. Kenley Jansen and Clayton Kershaw came in from outside their usual roles, and teamed up to seal the win and a trip to the NLCS.
The 2017 season got off to a languid start. Then along came a kid named Cody, and just as April was about to end, the magic began. Puig, Bellinger and Turner went back-to-back-to-back in the bottom of the 9th before A-Gon walked it off. Joe Davis made his signature call. You know the rest.
Kyle Farmer’s Debut Walk-Off
The greatest moment of the 2017 regular season. And the one that basically saved me. Read the story, if you haven’t.
Justin Turner’s Walk-Off Blast
After soundly winning game 1 of the 2017 NLCS against Chicago, game 2 was tied heading into the bottom of the 9th. With two runners on base, Justin Turner stepped up 29 years to the day of Kirk Gibson’s blast, a chance to be the hero. Boy, did he deliver.
The Dodgers (Finally) Win the Pennant
For almost three whole decades, the Dodgers franchise had been uncharacteristically stuck in mediocrity and underachievement. Those 29 years of frustration finally came home in game 5 of the 2017 NLCS, blasted into the cold Chicago night by Enrique Hernandez’s three home runs. Charlie Culberson, who made for the greatest moment the year before, fittingly caught the final out.
First World Series Win in 29 Years
It had been far, far too long since the Dodgers participated in the Fall Classic. They made the wait worth it with a sound 3-1 victory in game 1, with homers by NLCS co-MVP’s Chris Taylor and Justin Turner and godly pitching from Clayton Kershaw.
Corey Seager’s Triumphant Yell
In game 2, the score was deadlocked at 1-1 in the bottom of the 6th. Then Corey Seager got hold of a Justin Verlander pitch, let out a scream, and sent Dodger Stadium into a frenzy. The Dodgers didn’t win the game, but this moment sure still lingers.
Almost exactly one year after he was traded, Alex Wood is back in the news in a new piece in The Athletic. Given the allegations of technological cheating by the Astros, and the possibility of them doing it in the World Series as well, it certainly does seem odd that Yu Darvish and Clayton Kershaw would be destroyed, yet Alex Wood would emerge unscathed. Turns out: it might be because he and Austin Barnes drew up a crazy set of signs out of fear of Houston’s alleged sign-stealing machinations.
It sure worked. Wood managed the longest no-hit bid in a World Series game since Jerry Koosman of the 1969 New York Mets, before Brandon Morrow, Tony Watson (the pitcher of record), and Kenley Jansen locked down a 6-2 comeback win to even the series. Especially given the emotional circumstances over the Yuli Gurriel incident the game before, it was a much-needed win on multiple levels.
Bullpen and Offense Rally in Game 6
Coming back to Los Angeles down 3-2 in the series, the team tried the same pattern in game 2 that didn’t work then. Except…this time it did. Rich Hill was pulled early again, and the bullpen did the rest. After Tony Watson escaped a game in the 6th, Chase Utley, Austin Barnes and Corey Seager fueled a rally to take the lead in the bottom half.
Add a solo shot from Joc Pederson, lockdown relief from Kenta Maeda, and a six-out save from Kenley Jansen, and the Dodgers managed to force game 7 with a gritty 3-1 victory.
Combined No-Hitter in Mexico
Combined no-hitters tend not to be as celebrated as individual ones, but I’ve never been part of that line of thinking. In a way, it’s even *more* remarkable, as multiple pitchers are tasked with not blowing it and the pressure mounts. This one started unsurprisingly with 2018’s true ace, rookie badass Walker Buehler. He struck out eight batters in six innings, an early display of his incredible talent not long after his first MLB start in April.
After that, Tony Cingrani was tasked with the 7th inning, walking two but escaping the jam. Yimi Garcia and Adam Liberate then blazed through the final two innings, sealing the first MLB no-hitter to take place entirely outside of North America.
The one reason people likely don’t celebrate this one as much is that it happened just before a string of embarrassing losses to bad teams that officially put Los Angeles at “rock bottom.” It’s one they would fortunately escape.
Matt Kemp’s Clutch Domination of Arizona
When he was reacquired via a salary dump in December 2017, no one could have envisioned Matt Kemp crushing it like it was 2011 in 2018. Well…he did just that on every level. He won NL Comeback Player of the Year, started in the All-Star Game, and saved the team’s gritty season in early September.
With the NL West still very much in doubt in the final month of the season, Kemp torched Diamondbacks reliever Archie Bradley two games in a row. The first was a three-run homer to center in the bottom of the 8th, turning a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 win that tied them for first in the NL West.
The second was somehow even better. The very next day, in the bottom of the 9th, Kemp swatted a towering hit to center to score the tying and winning runs off Bradley. The Dodgers were in first place, and would hang on to win the division (albeit after further tribulation).
Cody Bellinger’s Swan Dive Catch and Walk-Off Hit
After coming up as a first baseman, Cody Bellinger was shifted to the outfield in the NLCS against Milwaukee. It proved to be a wise move, as he showed he had the glove to match his powerful bat in game 4. With the speedy Lorenzo Cain leading off the 10th, Bellinger dived to steal a sure hit, spreading his arms and sliding on his stomach as if he were in flight.
It wasn’t the only time he saved them that game. In the bottom of the 13th, he cranked a base hit to send a surprisingly hustling Manny Machado home, evening the series 2-2.
Chris Taylor’s Sliding Reach Catch Saves the Pennant…
For the Dodgers to get back to the World Series in 2018, they had to get through Milwaukee in game 7 of the NLCS on the road. In the bottom of the 5th, Julio Urias (just after having lost his grandmother no less) was summoned to face eventual NL MVP Christian Yelich, who proceeded to golf a surefire hit into the gap.
Especially with Lorenzo Cain on second, it seemed sure to tie the game, and perhaps open the floodgates for even more destruction. Chris Taylor, fortunately, decided against all that.
Even with that catch, it was still just 2-1, by all means a winnable game for the Brewers. In the top of the 6th, Yasiel Puig made sure to put that out of reach.
Max Muncy Ends the Longest World Series Game Ever
Game 3 of the 2018 World Series was (quite literally) two games in one. It merits its own article of unforgettable moments, but that’s too many to share here. So let’s just reflect on the best one: Max Muncy’s walk-off solo shot off Nathan Eovaldi.
What made the moment all the sweeter was it made up for a previous moment in the 15th, when Muncy seemed to have the winning shot then down the right field line…only for it to just hook foul. So he made sure to go opposite field the next time around. It worked.
“Go Get it Out of the Ocean”
With Madison Bumgarner signing with Arizona this off-season, it ensures the Dodgers will continue to see him frequently. But now that the days of battling with Bum in San Francisco are over, this instantly legendary dust-up with Max Muncy is easily the best. It’s just a shame they won’t be able to do it quite like the multiple episodes with Puig.
The Rookies Walk-Off Into the History Books
One of the tropes in sports culture I hate the most, especially when it’s applied to MLB, is that any season where a team doesn’t win a championship is a failure, or meaningless. I don’t think that’s true, especially in baseball, where championships are rare and the odds are uniquely oppressive. Successful seasons can come in many ways. With that in mind…the 2019 Dodgers season is an unquestionable failure. 106 wins, a franchise record, just to lose in the first round? Yeah…pathetic.
Having said that, there was one component of 2019 that absolutely has to be celebrated: the rookies. Especially after a sluggish offseason beforehand and an equally barren trade deadline, the team did vindicate its unflagging faith in the farm system by bringing up a brigade of young studs like Alex Verdugo, Will Smith, Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May, Kyle Garlick, and Matt Beaty.
In three consecutive games in June, three of them made history. It started with Matt Beaty sealing Walker Buehler’s first complete game masterpiece of the year on a two-run blast to center. The next night, the electric Alex Verdugo cranked a solo shot to right in extras. But the best was the last: Will Smith launching a three-run shot with two outs in the bottom of the 9th.
It was the first time in MLB history that a team won three straight games on walk-off homers from rookies. While I wouldn’t mind the team kick its prospect-hugging ways to win now this offseason, I can’t blame them for hanging on to these kids. The future is very, very bright in Chavez Ravine.
And there you have it, the end of an incredible decade of Dodger baseball. While the 2010s was missing a world championship