The sting of the champagne had yet to fade, the release of a pennant won still fresh. But the Dodgers did not forget.
So on Thursday night, not long after vanquishing the Cubs to advance to the World Series, they used the National League Championship trophy as a beer glass. Then they poured a drink for Corey Seager, the shortstop who has been hobbled by a back injury but may rejoin the Dodgers in time to play for their first World Series title since 1988.
“I know Corey was at home and watching every single pitch and exchanging text messages with myself and the players and rooting us on,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s doing everything he can to get healthy. We expect him back for Game 1.”
Of course, the Dodgers almost made it seem as if they didn’t need the 23-year-old Seager in winning the NLCS in a tidy five games.
Charlie Culberson started three of the five games at shortstop and went 5-for-11 with a pair of doubles and a triple, holding his own at the plate even though his primary value had come with his glove.
“Obviously when you have a guy like Charlie Culberson that can fill in like that — made some spectacular defensive plays, some big hits — it was great to see,” Roberts said.
The versatile Chris Taylor started two of the five games at short, with the remainder of his starts coming in centerfield. He finished 6-for-19 with a double, triple and a pair of homers on the way to sharing series MVP honors with former Met Justin Turner.
Still, Seager’s return would only lengthen the Dodgers’ lineup. The All-Star shortstop hit .295 with 22 homers and 77 RBIs in 145 games in the regular season. In a three-game sweep of the Diamondbacks in the NLDS, Seager went 3-for-11 but walked four times. He was injured on a slide in the final game.
Soon, Seager underwent an epidural, his back forcing the Dodgers to keep him off the roster for the NLCS. He had not been doing baseball activities, though Roberts sounded optimistic about a return. But three games in an American League park means use of the designated hitter, which could be a valuable tool for Roberts to keep Seager’s bat in the lineup without the physical grind of playing short.
Getting Seager back in any capacity would be an added bonus for the Dodgers, who now have the benefit of rest leading up to a World Series in which they have home-field advantage by virtue of winning 104 games in the regular season. Also, knocking off the Cubs quickly allows Clayton Kershaw to pitch on regular rest in Game 1 at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.
“That’s why we have the best record,” said Kershaw, who already has been named the starter by Roberts. “We get to open up at Dodger Stadium, get to be home. Don’t have to worry about the DH. It’s great. I’m excited about it.”