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Kiké Hernández Highlights the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Extreme Depth

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ATLANTA — The Los Angeles Dodgers usually are not for everybody. Sometimes, younger gamers want to depart once they develop into eligible without cost company if they need common enjoying time. And generally, achieved gamers are brushed apart as a result of the Dodgers have the capacity and the will to amass different, extra achieved gamers.

The Hall of Fame pitcher Waite Hoyt famously stated, “It’s great to be young and a Yankee.”

To be younger and a Dodger in an period of free company, analytics, monetary largess and sustained profitable means generally reluctantly shuffling onto the injured checklist as the membership manipulates its roster throughout the six-month grind of a daily season, or shuttling again to the minor leagues even if you happen to had been a contender for the Rookie of the Year Award.

Gavin Lux, who began Sunday’s Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, turned acquainted with the latter this summer season. One of the prime prospects in a system that has produced two current rookies of the yr in Cody Bellinger (2017) and Corey Seager (2016), Lux hit .286 with 5 homers and 19 R.B.I. in May however swooned later in the summer season and was not getting the common enjoying time he would have in a spot like Pittsburgh or Miami, the place he might need labored his manner out of a droop.

So on Aug. 26, the Dodgers shipped him again to Class-AAA Oklahoma City.

“It’s pretty easy to look around the league and say, like, oh yeah, maybe on this team I wouldn’t have gotten sent down, obviously,” Lux stated. “But there’s a lot of really good people here to learn from, a lot of really good players to learn from, and guys who have been around and a lot of superstars, Hall of Famers.

“So for me it’s, like, looking at it as a blessing as opposed to the other way around. And I’m still early in my career, so I’m just a being a sponge and trying to soak up as much as I can from these guys.”

Maybe sooner or later Lux will develop right into a mainstay like Seager or Justin Turner — a course of that could possibly be accelerated significantly ought to Seager go away Los Angeles as a free agent this low season. Or, possibly he’ll develop into an October star for the Dodgers and nonetheless wind up someplace else, like a handful of others scattered round this month.

Four years in the past, Kiké Hernández belted three dwelling runs for the Dodgers in Game 5 of the N.L.C.S. in opposition to the Chicago Cubs, serving to push the Dodgers into the World Series in opposition to Houston. Hernández turned the first participant with three homers in a postseason recreation at Wrigley Field in that stadium’s 100-plus years of existence. His seven R.B.I. that night time set an N.L.C.S. report.

But his path to common enjoying time with the Dodgers was stymied by the staff’s perception in platooning, after which was minimize off totally by gamers like Mookie Betts and Bellinger in the outfield and Seager and Max Muncy in the infield. So Hernández signed a two-year, $14 million cope with Boston as a free agent earlier than the 2021 season. Hernández was one in every of the offensive stars as Boston took down the Tampa Bay Rays in an A.L. division sequence, and already has three dwelling runs by two video games of the A.L.C.S. in opposition to Houston. The Dodgers might see him in the World Series in the event that they and the Red Sox advance.

In his postseason profession, Hernández now has a three-homer recreation, a five-hit recreation, a seven-R.B.I. recreation, a pinch-hit homer and a walk-off series-clinching R.B.I. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no different participant in M.L.B. historical past has achieved greater than two of these 5 feats.

More instantly, the Dodgers are at the moment going through outfielder Joc Pederson in the N.L.C.S. Pederson, who had flashed some indicators of stardom in Los Angeles, had a wierd finish to his time in with the Dodgers.

He was dealt to the Los Angeles Angels as a part of a sophisticated commerce that included Betts’s arrival from Boston simply earlier than spring coaching in 2020. But Pederson ended up staying with the Dodgers that season as a result of the first itineration of that deal was referred to as off. When it was redone, Pederson remained with the Dodgers.

So that fall, Pederson helped the Dodgers win their first World Series since 1988 by smashing a key dwelling run in Game 5 to guide a 4-2 win over Tampa Bay. That was after he had produced 4 hits in Game 3 of the N.L.C.S. in opposition to Atlanta to assist the Dodgers keep away from elimination after dropping the first two video games.

And but, the Dodgers as soon as once more stated goodbye, this time for actual. Pederson, who had been lowered to a platoon position, opted for a one-year, $7 million free agent cope with the Chicago Cubs, who gave him an opportunity to develop into an on a regular basis participant.

Atlanta then acquired him in a July commerce after dropping outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. for the season to a knee damage. Against Milwaukee in the division sequence, Pederson slammed a series-turning, three-run, pinch-hit homer in opposition to reliever Adrian Houser in Game 3. Having already homered in Game 1 in opposition to the Brewers, additionally off Houser, it was “Joctober” as soon as once more.

That aptitude for the dramatic continued with one more dwelling run on Sunday, serving to give Atlanta a stunning 2-0 lead in the N.L.C.S.

“He’s been in these situations a lot, number one,” Atlanta Manager Brian Snitker stated. “Number two, that guy’s got no heartbeat at all. It’s like he’s on the playground. Playing against him in the postseason the last few years, you could tell that.”

Pederson has walloped 12 homers in 165 profession postseason at-bats, but the Dodgers haven’t appeared to overlook him all that a lot. Their present roster has at the least three gamers who’re anticipated to be first-ballot Hall of Famers: Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Albert Pujols. Then there are different battle-tested veterans like the 2021 All-Stars Betts, Justin Turner, Trea Turner and Chris Taylor, and extra. The staff has usually introduced in veterans like Chase Utley to function mentors.

“Going into the playoffs in 2019, J.T. pulled me aside, and Chase Utley was there, too, and he was just, like, ‘Every time you step up in the box, try to have that feeling that you’re 4 for 4,’” Lux stated. “That’s the best feeling you can have if you’re a hitter. Going up there 4 for 4, there’s no pressure. You feel good. So that’s kind of the best take of advice I’ve gotten from anybody, I think, going into the playoffs.”

For the gamers who keep, information is out there at each flip. Sometimes, it comes from surprising sources. When Bellinger received Thursday’s division sequence recreation with an R.B.I. single in the ninth inning it was his third game-winning hit in a winner-take-all recreation. This one, after a season during which the former most useful participant hit solely .165, got here after a number of conversations this summer season with Scherzer.

“Belli had a tough year,” Scherzer stated. “I’ve had some talks with him. Man, just keep grinding. I know you’re fighting through some stuff. Everyone in their career gets punched in the face. No one’s ever had just an easy career. There are always years where the game just comes back and punches you in the face.”

Scherzer instructed Bellinger that he needed to hold working exhausting and struggle by a down yr and that if he continued to get alternatives, good issues would come.

“He’s going to do absolutely big things for us in the playoffs,” Scherzer stated late Thursday night time in San Francisco. “I saw this coming a mile away. I just wanted that so bad for him. It’s so awesome to see him do it.”

Bellinger, who isn’t eligible without cost company till after the 2023 season, could possibly be one in every of the homegrown gamers who stays, however he should present some enchancment as the Dodgers received’t wait eternally. There is all the time a Betts or a Trea Turner or a Scherzer who could be acquired to interchange a participant who just isn’t at their greatest.

To play in what Tommy Lasorda, the staff’s Hall of Fame supervisor who died this low season, referred to as “Blue Heaven” is to reside in a clubhouse with fixed change, limitless artistic prospects and a gentle stream of recent toys.

Nearly everybody, it appears, is replaceable.