World Series

Dodgers showcase their World Series-caliber talent — and imperfections — vs. Yankees

Dodgers showcase their World Series-caliber talent — and imperfections — vs. Yankees

Dodgers pitcher Tyler Glasnow delivers during the first inning against the New York Yankees on Sunday. Glasnow struck out 12 but also allowed eight hits and five runs. (Noah K. Murray / Associated Press)

On paper, the Dodgers’ series win over the New York Yankees this weekend won’t change much in the grand scheme of their season.

But on the field, in a marquee matchup that provided October-esque atmospheres just a week into June, the club got an insightful “barometer,” as manager Dave Roberts put it.

Of exactly where their team is at almost halfway through season.

Of what a blueprint for success might look like in the playoffs.

And of the imperfections they still must correct to prevent another postseason failure this year.

Read more: 'I like to be in the spotlight.' Teoscar Hernández powers Dodgers to series win over Yankees

“It really doesn’t matter [any more than a normal series] in the short-term,” Roberts said Sunday, when asked about the significance of this weekend’s trip to the Bronx. “But … [this series] was built up, so you want to show your best self. You don’t want to come in here and get embarrassed.”

Embarrassed, the Dodgers were not.

On Friday night, they out-executed the Yankees in an extra-innings win. On Saturday, they overpowered New York’s pitching staff to pull away late in a series-clinching route.

Sunday, however, was a different story. Despite having their ace, Tyler Glasnow, on the mound, and holding a one-run lead in the bottom of the sixth, the Dodgers failed to complete a three-game sweep over the MLB-leading Yankees, falling 6-4 in a game that — in another parallel to postseason baseball — was decided on the margins and in memorable, dramatic sequences.

The Yankees (46-21) opened the scoring in a two-run second inning that saw Oswaldo Cabrera clip the foul pole for a solo home run, and Dodgers center fielder Andy Pages drop what would have been a difficult, running catch at the wall for the third out, resulting in an RBI double for Aaron Judge.

The Dodgers (41-26) responded with three runs off Yankees star rookie Luis Gil, getting a two-run double from Mookie Betts in the fifth inning and a go-ahead home run in the sixth from Teoscar Hernández — his third long ball and ninth RBI of the series.

Dodgers’ Mookie Betts hits a double in the fifth inning Sunday against the New York Yankees. (Noah K. Murray / Associated Press)

When the game’s most pivotal moment arose in the bottom of the sixth, the Dodger seemed to have an advantage, as well.

With Yankees slugger Juan Soto out of the lineup for a third straight game with a forearm injury, the Yankees moved center fielder (and longtime Dodgers nemesis) Trent Grisham up to the No. 5 spot of their order — despite his .083 batting average entering the night.

As Grisham came to bat, parts of the sold-out Yankee Stadium crowd began chanting “We want Soto!” — hopeful their star offseason acquisition would be available to pinch-hit.

Instead, Grisham stayed at the plate, got ahead 2-and-1 in the count, then punished Glasnow (who had 12 strikeouts and one walk in his six-inning, five-run start) for a rare mistake.

What was supposed to be an elevated fastball stayed low and down the middle.

Grishman blasted it to right for a go-ahead three-run homer.

The Yankees never trailed again.

“I guess, in that one moment in time,” Roberts deadpanned, “I would rather have had Soto at bat.”

The Dodgers did threaten to come back, but stubbed their toe too many times down the stretch.

A two-on, no-out opportunity in the seventh inning was diffused by a baserunning mistake from Pages — who was thrown out on a bunt play at third base after missing the bag with his lead leg — and double-play grounder from Betts.

“Every day you learn something,” said Pages, still barely a month removed from his MLB debut. “Things happen unfortunately, but just have to keep working. No excuses.”

A sacrifice fly from Will Smith in the top of the eighth, scoring Shohei Ohtani after his leadoff double, was negated by a towering home run from Judge the next half-inning, when Roberts opted to use right-hander Yohan Ramírez over a more high-leverage reliever with the Dodgers trailing late in the game.

Dodgers batter Gavin Lux reacts after being called out on strikes in the second inning Sunday. (Noah K. Murray / Associated Press)

“They’re a heckuva ballclub,” Roberts said. “Right now, Judge is just a man among boys.”

Still, on the whole, the weekend represented a success for the Dodgers, who were only 13-12 over their previous 25 games.

They saw Yoshinobu Yamamoto shine on a big stage Friday, in his best start since signing a $325 million contract this offseason. They watched Hernández flourish in high-pressure situations, taking the team lead in home runs (16) and RBIs (48).

The struggling bottom-half of the lineup showed some life, highlighted by a three-hit game from Gavin Lux on Sunday.

The continued regression of Betts (just three for 12 in the series) and Ohtani (two for 13) didn’t sink their offense like it had in recent weeks, either, even if Betts bemoaned his inability to capitalize more at the plate Sunday.

“Come postseason time we're going to have to execute those things,” Betts said. “Sometimes you've just got to get stuff done."

Read more: Yoshinobu Yamamoto stellar in another big-game setting as Dodgers edge Yankees

Indeed, these will all be crucial aspects in October, when the Dodgers will need their biggest stars in top form, their role players providing consistent production and their pitching staff to avoid some of the mistakes that plagued Glasnow on Sunday.

As Roberts and Betts emphasized, this weekend will count for little more than a postseason test run.

But, in a midseason spectacle that attracted sellout crowds, industry-wide attention and three nationally televised games, the Dodgers at least got a taste of what awaits in the playoffs — perhaps, literally, with themselves and the Yankees on course to possibly meet again for a title.

“I think that playing with this media attention, sold-out [crowds], the energy you feel, against a team you potentially could meet in the World Series,” Roberts said, “it’s sort of a barometer.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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