MILWAUKEE – It dawned on this lot Angeles Dodgers much earlier this season – probably because they lost 26 of their first 42 games, perhaps because they jeopardized their playoff chances with a wretched 4-9 track in August – that defending their National League crown would not come easily.
So this Game 7 of the NL Championship Series, Saturday night in what's supposed to be a raging Miller Park?
It will come as no shock that they are in it. That does not mean that they want any part of it.
But after making their first shot in defense of their crown with a 7-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 6 on Friday night, they are here.
"We have been playing for our lives since August," says helper Kenley Jansen, who will either spend the Saturday evening in the center of a festive crowd or quietly pack his equipment for the winter. "Here's another chance."
"Listen, man, we also know we're good.
Six-time champions of division, defending champions NL, and now faced for the third consecutive postseason.
The results are mixed: A Game 5 conquest of the Washington Nationals in 2016 NL Division Series and, of course, the listless 7 loss to the Houston Astros in last year's World Series.
Saturday night brings another mixed bag.
You start a beginner, yes, but he's undoubtedly her best pitcher, even If Walker Buehler, 21, nowhere near Hall of Fame References like Clayton Kershaw
He has more strikeouts – 151 – than innings – 137 1/3 – and blends his dominance with a cocksure attitude – a good mix for one Game 7, though the Dodgers have it Both Buehler playoffs have been lost so far (19659006) in between rousing and measured as Friday night there was Saturday morning.
"I love his mentality on the hill, "says outfielder Chris Taylor. "He wants to be out there, he'll be ready tomorrow and I expect him to have a great game for us."
"As for his heartbeat, the weapons, all that stuff, we're really in very good shape," says manager Dave Roberts. "He understands the magnitude of this moment, this game, and he's a good person for us to play baseball."
Buehler says the final knockout game he faced was Game 3 of the College World Series when Virginia overturned him and the Vanderbilt Commodores to win the national title.
"I mean, Game 7, to go to a World Series, I do not know if it gets more high stakes than that," he said after Game 6. "And I think, if you're right – it It's hard to put into words what could happen and what we hope for. "
Buehler also beat – and won – the game 163 of the season, taking the Colorado Rockies to the seventh round to win the NL West title on the 1st To win October.
This is another game the Dodgers did not want to attend. Forbidden favorites to win yet another West title, their false starts, injuries and occasionally uninspiring play forced them to work OT to defend that crown.
And here they are again.
The Dodgers may regret that they did not force the Brewers to beat super-Reliever Josh Hader in Game 6; He had a three-day break and will be in Game 7 for several innings – maybe as many as three.
But Buehler will not be alone either.
The Dodgers will assist him with a bullpen, a disclosure of this series, with Jansen, Pedro Baez, Caleb Ferguson and Dylan Floro in a combination of 16 appearances. It is a victory or a way home, and all who are in Kershaw will have their proverbial spikes in the Bullpen.
"I like my chances when I get a chance tomorrow," says Jansen. "You can not worry about failure, you have to go out and have fun."
"It's a great moment to be out there. We are playing for a championship.