- - Wednesday, October 2, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

LOS ANGELES — A sideshow to the Washington Nationals-Los Angeles Dodgers National League Division Series beginning Thursday night at Dodger Stadium will likely be the battle of the Most Valuable Player candidates — or, more accurately, their home crowd backers.

Cody Bellinger, the Dodgers outfielder with 121 runs scored, 34 doubles, 47 home runs, 115 RBI and a .305 average, is likely the favorite to win the National League MVP. In case you don’t believe me, listen to the crowd at Dodger Stadium Thursday night as they make their case for their star with chants of “MVP, MVP.”

“It’s pretty cool,” Bellinger said, speaking to reporters during Wednesday’s pre-series workout. “I tried to block it out as much as I could throughout the year. The last series in San Francisco actually I kind of soaked it in. I was like, ‘I’m just going to do what I can to end this year strong and keep my name in the conversation. And now it’s out of my hands, so I’m not going to worry about that right now and put all my focus in on these next games that we got to play.”

It’s a familiar ritual to Nationals fans, who took up the same chant often when Anthony Rendon — with 117 runs scored, 44 doubles, 34 home runs, 126 RBI and a .319 average, an MVP candidate as well — stepped up to the plate, as they did Tuesday night at the wild card game, chanting, “MVP, MVP.”

Like Rendon is, his answer was a little more complicated. “I don’t know what they’re yelling at or yelling for,” he said. “It’s definitely a little crazy. I don’t know. I’m definitely not a fan of the attention. But it’s good to get recognized for, I guess, the hard work that you put in over the years. So it’s definitely humbling and appreciative.”



The MVP debate that will be part of the narrative this series illustrates a bigger story of the Nationals-Dodgers NLDS — this is a series of stars, big names with big accomplishments.

Bellinger, Rendon, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Trea Turner, Justin Turner, Stephen Strasburg, Max Muncy, Patrick Corbin, Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, Juan Soto, Hyun-Jin Ryu – MVP candidates, Cy Young contenders, All-Stars and near All-Stars.

This series is a showcase of baseball’s best.

No two inning star middle relievers here. This is old school, where starting pitchers – the main eventers of baseball — take the ball and, at least by today’s standards, try to go deep in games.

“There’s a little ode to the old school sort of starters and get after it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

Thursday night, Corbin will have to be the old school starter for Washington, taking the ball for Game 1.

“I feel pretty confident that Pat’s ready to go, so let’s focus on just winning the game tomorrow,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said, moving on from Tuesday night’s dramatic 4-3 comeback win over Milwaukee in the wild card game and putting the spotlight on this star-studded series.

⦁ Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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