Game 7 collapse would be very on-brand for Dodgers
Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images Sport / Getty

In August, after handing the St. Louis Cardinals a 3-1 victory and a three-game sweep at Chavez Ravine with his second implosion in three days, Los Angeles Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen offered a concise explanation for his team's compounding woes.

"Things are just not clicking," he told Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times. "In the 'pen, we need to figure that out. The position players need to figure it out. We all need to figure it out."

Technically, they did. Following that ignominious sweep, the Dodgers - then sitting 4 1/2 games back of first place in the National League West - went 24-10 the rest of the way and earned the right to play the Colorado Rockies for the division in Game 163. And they won, allowing them to bypass the wild-card game and head straight for a matchup with the demonstrably inferior Atlanta Braves in the NL Division Series.

But things never really clicked.

Sure, they finished with 92 wins, the third-most in the National League, but the Dodgers should've been better in 2018. Much better. After all, they retained virtually all the principals from the season prior when they racked up 104 victories - one shy of the franchise record - and earned their first pennant in nearly three decades; then, they added the top rental talent available at the trade deadline in Manny Machado. Their run differential pointed to the same conclusion. In a just world, one where sequencing doesn't matter, the Dodgers would've led the NL in wins; their 102-61 Pythag record, as derived from their run differential, trailed only the Boston Red Sox, who will represent the American League in the World Series, and Houston Astros, whom they defeated.

Chiefly, this gulf - the difference between what the Dodgers were and what they should've been - can be attributed to timing. On both sides of the ball, according to FanGraphs' clutch metric, no team floundered more in high-leverage spots. And while clutch isn't predictive, it's hard to shake the feeling that the Dodgers will find a way not to come through Saturday, either, when they play the Milwaukee Brewers for the pennant at Miller Park in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

Because, really, that's been the Dodgers' M.O. for some time, certainly for the entirety of this seemingly halcyon stretch that has now produced six straight division titles and zero World Series championships. They always seem to screw the pooch no matter how talented they are. Remember when Clayton Kershaw got shelled for seven runs in the decisive Game 6 of the 2013 NLCS? Remember that game-winning homer he served up to Matt Adams in Game 4 of the NLDS the following year? Remember, that next postseason, when they couldn't get past the freaking New York Mets? On and on it goes. Disappointment is a feature of the Dodgers, not a bug, and Clayton Kershaw tacitly acknowledged as much following his club's loss to the Astros in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series.

"Maybe one of these days I won't fail, we won't fail and we'll win one of these things," he told USA Today.

And, look, maybe this is the year. Maybe they find a way to sneak past the Brewers and upset the Red Sox, who lost just one game in each of their first two playoffs rounds. But a collapse in Game 7 against Milwaukee would be much more on-brand.

Maybe they won't hit. They've been plainly overmatched by Craig Counsell's galaxy brain bullpen management throughout the NLCS, after all, hitting .210/.293/.293 with a whopping 70 strikeouts through six games. Maybe Walker Buehler throws up a dud, much like Hyun-Jin Ryu - who had previously allowed just two runs with a dozen strikeouts across 11 1/3 innings (1.59 ERA) this postseason - did Friday in Game 6. Maybe their bullpen - which has been so, so good to this point in the series, crafting a 1.69 ERA over 26 2/3 innings - falls apart on account of the heavy workload they've shouldered. Or maybe their defense, of all things, lets them down; between Machado's nonchalance, Yasmani Grandal's passed ball issues, and their apparent lack of a viable second baseman, the Dodgers haven't looked terribly impressive afield this series.

It's possible, of course, that none of these doomsday prophecies come to pass. They're still a very good team, and even the worst team can win one game - the Baltimore Orioles won 47 this year.

Just don't be surprised, is all, if something doesn't click.

Jonah Birenbaum is theScore's senior MLB writer. He steams a good ham. You can find him on Twitter @birenball.

Game 7 collapse would be very on-brand for Dodgers
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