Back in August, I wrote about how a healthy Matt Kemp would be the final piece to the Dodgers‘ World Series run. And when he finally returned in mid-September with 11 hits in his first 28 at-bats, including three doubles and a homer, that final piece to an already strong team appeared to have arrived. 

But it wasn’t meant to be. A recurring ankle injury forced the 29-year-old out of action for the remainder of the season and playoffs.

It hasn’t slowed the Dodgers, though, who knocked out the Braves in four NLDS games and will head to the NLCS as favorites over the Pirates or Cardinals.

Should we be surprised? I had them winning the division in my preseason NL West preview, and so did many others. But they looked like anything but contenders after a June 21 loss to the Padres, which dropped their record to 30-42.

They were in last place and 9.5 games back of the division-leading Diamondbacks. Nearly four months later, they’ve gone 65-29 and are eight wins away from a championship.

So, how did they go from cellar-dwellers with a manager and general manager on the hot seat to World Series favorites?

As easy as it is to point to rookie Yasiel Puig’s call-up, it’s been so much more than that. While Puig may have been the necessary spark, the Dodgers have gotten to this point with an all-around team effort.

Here’s a look at the five keys that have the Dodgers closing in on their first World Series title since 1988. 

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