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The Yankees Won Their Series Against the Dodgers. They Would Welcome Another.

LOS ANGELES — D.J. LeMahieu, an All-Star infielder, and Adam Ottavino, a standout relief pitcher, each spent seven major league seasons with the Colorado Rockies, from 2012 to last season. Each helped that franchise rise from the cellar of the National League West into the playoffs in consecutive seasons, in 2017 and 2018.

The two players, however, kept running into a familiar roadblock: the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won their sixth straight N.L. West title in 2018 and made their second consecutive appearance in the World Series.

In the Dodgers, LeMahieu and Ottavino, both of whom signed with the Yankees in January, saw not only a big-market team with a large payroll, but also one focused on analytics and player development in the minor leagues. A multiheaded monster, in other words.

“I thought they were the only team that was quite that style until I played for the Yankees and I realized that we’re reflections of each other,” Ottavino said. “There’s some small differences, but over all it’s just a depth factor. In all the years with the Rockies, they got us with that depth. They’d bring up another guy and they’d be awesome and they’d produce — just like we’ve done this year.”

That was certainly the case over the weekend. In an eagerly awaited matchup of the teams with the best record in each league, the Yankees won two of three games, including a 5-1 victory on Sunday. After being swept in three games by another playoff contender, the Oakland Athletics, the Yankees rebounded and outscored the power-hitting Dodgers, 16-5, in the series. They toppled a team that had the best home record in the major leagues this season.

“We all, if we’re being honest, looked forward to this series,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said, adding, “Even though it’s the regular season, it felt big.”

Although all wins count the same, Boone said he was pleased to see how his team performed when so many were watching. He was particularly encouraged that the starting rotation, the Yankees’ biggest weakness, allowed only five runs in 16⅔ innings thanks to more improvement from James Paxton, a short but stout outing from C. C. Sabathia and the continued steadiness of Domingo German.

ImageCreditMark J. Terrill/Associated Press

The two most dependable units of the team — the bullpen and the offense — were strong as usual. The bullpen helped hold the Dodgers’ best two hitters — infielder Max Muncy and outfielder Cody Bellinger, an N.L. Most Valuable Player Award contender — to three hits in the series.

“When you combine good stuff with your misses being off the corners, it’s really good and it’s really tough to hit those guys,” Muncy said.

The Yankees’ offense, the highest-scoring lineup in baseball, toppled the Dodgers’ two best starting pitchers, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu, and extended its major league record for home runs in a calendar month to 61 with three off Kershaw on Sunday: by first baseman Mike Ford, who began the game on the bench and was a part of that depth that Ottavino highlighted; right fielder Aaron Judge, who has been heating up of late; and LeMahieu.

“I don’t know if facing them gives you more or less help” for the playoffs, Kershaw said. “But hopefully we can find out in October. That would be great.”

It was hard not to think of the postseason while watching two of the most iconic franchises in baseball play over the weekend. The Dodgers, who regularly lead Major League Baseball in attendance, had larger crowds than normal, averaging nearly 54,000 fans a game in the series.

“That was a good test,” Judge said. “That was one of the best teams in the game. That was a fun series. You could tell from the crowd, the fans were loving it. We were loving it.”

But the Houston Astros can’t be forgotten. They moved aggressively at the July 31 trade deadline to improve their roster while the Yankees and the Dodgers did not. The Astros, who won the 2017 World Series by taking Game 7 at Dodger Stadium and were already contenders this season before the trade deadline, remain a threat: They completed a three-game sweep of the Angels on Sunday, giving them seven wins in eight games, and woke up Monday with the same record as the Yankees.

“We match up well,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said of the Yankees. “I don’t think that this series changed my thought that these are two very good ball clubs. But we both have a lot of work to do if there is, at all, a potential matchup again.”

Asked if he would like to face the Dodgers again later this year, Judge smiled. “If it lines up that way, it’d be great to see them,” he said. “They’re a great team. Anything can happen in the postseason, but we’d be excited for that opportunity.”

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SOURCE : https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/26/sports/baseball/yankees-dodgers.html

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