Dodger down­turn:

Boys of Sum­mer be­come Bums of Septem­ber

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - Tom Kraso­vic @SDTUKraso­vic USA TO­DAY Sports

A team once chal­leng­ing his­tory for wins is hav­ing trou­ble buy­ing one. What’s next for L.A.? uYan­kees have eyes on Red Sox in AL East, Page 27 uSeries to watch: Nats get shot at Dodgers, Page 28

The Dodgers have be­come very un­like the weather in coastal Los An­ge­les.

They run in ex­tremes, like few ball­clubs have.

For 10 weeks they were so hot, they risked evap­o­ra­tion.

They won 52 of 61 games. No one could beat Los An­ge­les, which didn’t drop a sin­gle se­ries.

When the cool­ing off ar­rived, the men in blue fell into an Arc­tic state: 15 de­feats in 16 games, in­clud­ing 10 con­sec­u­tive losses through Sept. 10.

Many of the very same Dodgers went from Boys of Sum­mer to Bums of Septem­ber. Start­ing pitch­ers fell apart, re­liev­ers served up chaos, hit­ters flailed.

And as the mis­eries sloshed to­ward this week, the Dodgers tried to make sense of their new­found in­ep­ti­tude while tak­ing com­fort in their still seem­ingly in­sur­mount­able lead in the Na­tional League West.

“As ex­cit­ing as it was,” vice pres­i­dent of base­ball op­er­a­tions Josh Byrnes told USA TO­DAY Sports Weekly of the early sum­mer fun, “I don’t think any­body thought this would be easy, by any stretch.”

Twice, Byrnes re­ferred to the re­cent turn as a “bad, bad stretch.”

He took so­lace in this fact: “In Oc­to­ber, ev­ery­body starts fresh.”

WHICH EX­TREME FITS?

It is the re­cent streak, of course, that com­mands every­one’s at­ten­tion. Folks won­der: What’s wrong with the Dodgers? Are their post­sea­son chances now in deep freeze?

The sec­ond ques­tion is the easy one.

The Dodgers will reach the play­offs and do so as champions of the NL West. So says the num­ber-crunch­ers of Base­ball Prospec­tus, an an­a­lyt­ics site. What’s more, they still have the best odds (about 20%) in the NL to win the World Se­ries.

So, Dodgers man­ager Dave Roberts wasn’t just wax­ing brave- ly when he did a lit­tle post­sea­son hand­i­cap­ping of his own.

“I think we are very equipped to win 11 games in Oc­to­ber,” he told USA TO­DAY Sports.

Sev­eral hours later, the Dodgers lost for the ninth time in 10 games.

WHAT WENT WRONG

The Dodgers stopped pitch­ing and hitting. But it wasn’t just that their best player, short­stop Corey Sea­ger, was side­lined with a balky throw­ing el­bow, or that the best Dodgers slug­ger, Cody Bellinger, missed a few games with an an­kle in­jury, or that trade-dead­line ac­qui­si­tion Yu Darvish, the nom­i­nal No. 2 pitcher, looked un­com­fort­able; or that the pre­vi­ous No. 2, Alex Wood, dis­played both less stuff and ac­cu­racy af­ter a hia­tus os­ten­si­bly from a shoul­der ail­ment.

The Dodgers ran into three teams from the NL’s best di­vi­sion — their own — who, in ad­di­tion to know­ing them very well, did many things right.

Es­pe­cially im­pres­sive were the Di­a­mond­backs, who will claim the NL’s first wild card un­less some­thing ul­tra-dras­tic hap­pens in days ahead.

“The Di­a­mond­backs are a good team,” Byrnes said.

Ari­zona beat up on the Dodgers as no team has in a long time, sweep­ing three games in Phoenix and in Los An­ge­les. They mauled starters who weren’t named Clay­ton Ker­shaw.

With­out cut­ting the Dodgers too much slack, Ari­zona ar­guably could have clocked any other team in a sim­i­lar fash­ion.

Name an­other team with six bet­ter pieces in these slots: ace (Zack Greinke, who's pitch­ing like vin­tage Greinke this year); No. 2 pitcher (Rob­bie Ray, who strikes out 12 per nine in­nings); and four heart-of-the-or­der hit­ters such as righty Paul Gold­schmidt (MVP can­di­date), lefty Jake Lamb (pac­ing to­ward 30 home runs/.370 on-base per­cent­age), righty/July trade ac­qui­si­tion J.D. Martinez (pac­ing to­ward 40 homers); and lefty David Per­alta (bat­ting near .300).

It’ll be a short list.

AP­PRE­CI­ATE THE MARATHON

The Dodgers will still fin­ish with close to 100 vic­to­ries. Though their plum­met has put home­field ad­van­tage at risk for deep Oc­to­ber, some­day soon, the num­bers say, they will cel­e­brate win­ning their fifth Na­tional League West ti­tle in a row and sec­ond in two tries un­der Roberts.

This has been a spe­cial jour­ney, Roberts said.

And, if the Dodgers fall short of win­ning the World Se­ries, as they

JIM COWSERT, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Aaron Judge, Yan­kees are rolling.

CHARLES LE­CLAIRE, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Man­ager Dave Roberts, right, says his team can turn it around: “I think we are very equipped to win 11 games in Oc­to­ber.”

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