Boys of Summer become Bums of September
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
Aaron Judge, Yankees are rolling.
Manager Dave Roberts, right, says his team can turn it around: “I think we are very equipped to win 11 games in October.”