LOS ANGELES, CA- The slate is clear for the Dodgers. Playing mediocre ball for the next month and a half won’t cut it if they hope to earn a postseason berth. But being average rather than playing exceptional as they did all last year, has been the Dodgers calling card during the 2018 Major League Baseball season. Dropping two of three games to the San Francisco Giants in their most recent homestand brought an echo to the way the Dodgers are playing.
Before the Dodgers managed to sneak past the Giants with a 4-3 extra innings win against their longtime rivals, San Francisco pulled off the first victories with solid pitching and timely hitting. You might as well throw in a dash of bad luck that has struck the Dodgers as well. The Dodgers are in third place in the NL West behind the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
They could very easily be in first place had it not been the team’s inopportune moments of dealing with injuries that have fallen down on key players like Corey Seager (out for the season), Justin Turner and pitching ace Clayton Kershaw, throughout the season. However, don’t look for Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to buy into the excuse department theory.
For whatever reason, the Dodgers don’t appear to have the same kind of energy they had in their magical journey last season. They’ve got time, albeit a little bit of time, to right the ship and put a strong finish to this season. That means the Dodgers are going to have to improve on getting more runs when Kershaw is pitching and work on not stranding so many runners as they did against the Giants.
In their 5-2 defeat to the Giants, the Dodgers left eight runners on base. Meanwhile, Kershaw was pitching like Kershaw, going eight innings, giving up just one run and four hits and striking out nine batters. On most days, that’s an automatic win. The Dodgers surrendered four runs to the Giants in the top of the ninth to drop that contest. The next evening, Alex Wood took the mound and looked pretty good for the most part, dialing in five innings and producing six strikeouts.
Like Kershaw’s exemplary outing, Wood didn’t get the offensive support he needed to earn the win. This time the Dodgers left seven men on base in the 2–1 loss. The Dodgers finally got untracked in the third game with 14 hits in the team’s 4-3 win at Dodger Stadium. But again, the lack of capitalization almost came back and bit them in the rear end. The Dodgers left 17 men on base in a victory that put a halt to the five-game losing streak the team was on.
It is this kind of inconsistency that have plagued the Dodgers since opening day. But in order to make a strong finish down the stretch, the Dodgers are going to have to shake things up if they still have plans to conquer the National League West Division. The question now left for the Dodgers after dropping the two of three games against the Giants, is how bad do they want to win that crown again.
For sure, the Dodgers are a vastly different ballclub than they were last season. The Dodgers play on the field this season has shown that. They’re still good enough to make it back to the World Series, a place that saw the Dodgers get to Game 7. But they’ve got their work cut out for them down the stretch.
Last year at the All-Star break, the Dodgers, behind the slugging of Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger were lighting it up, coasting to a 61-29 record. They went 43-29 in the second half of the season to finish the 2017 regular season with a 104-58 won-l0ss record. The only problem with those numbers is that they don’t matter this year. It doesn’t even matter if the Dodgers claimed a not-so-impressive 53-43 record during the first half of the season.
What is worrisome is the way the Dodgers have played since. Through the first 26 games since All-Star break, the Dodgers are playing in the red with a 12-14 mark. Yeah, playing .500 ball is not how you make a move for the postseason. What we see from the Dodgers thus far has been scattered with good, solid play mixed in with injuries to key players. The month of August has been like the way the Dodgers have played all season long: uneven and unpredictable.
Hopefully, that will change in the weeks to come.