Dodgers ride surge:
L.A. was once 16-26 but has righted itself with depth that could help deliver a memorable October.
Whew and Dodger Blue have become a thing of late, and that means baseball’s perplexing giant out West might yet be heard from this October.
It wasn’t looking so great for the Dodgers in stretches deep into this summer. And in May, they trailed by nine games and later dipped to 16-26.
The baseball world was stunned by their flailing, even with their bad injury luck, and despite climbing into playoff contention in July, the Dodgers gasped and wheezed in August. This month saw two losing teams, the New York Mets and Cincinnati Reds, win a series off them.
Yet they plugged away, and when they swept three games from the Rockies last week, these well-heeled survivors opened up a lead of 21⁄2 games over Colorado with nine games to go. It remained at 11⁄2 games at press time.
The lead was L.A.’s biggest of the season, and the 87-69 winloss record the Dodgers took into the week was their highwater mark, proof that this season has tested them more than any of the pundits would’ve predicted in March.
“You exhale a little bit,” Dodgers executive Josh Byrnes told USA TODAY, “because it’s been so long since we’ve been able to extend the lead.”
Byrnes was speaking the day after Chris Taylor’s 10th-inning home run at Dodger Stadium beat the Rockies Sept. 18.
Hot-hitting Yasiel Puig pounded a three-run homer the next night to key L.A.’s sweep clincher.
Finally, the Dodgers had breathing room.
While a sixth consecutive National League West title seemed in hand, especially with Rockies co-MVP candidates Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado set back by injuries, the Dodgers had hit too many potholes this year to overlook the nine intradivisonal
games awaiting them.
“We know they’re going to be hard games to win,” Byrnes said.
The final series will be in San Francisco, starting Sept. 28, and wouldn’t it be fun if the Dodgers had to beat their arch rival to claim the West crown?
“From a Giants perspective, they want to eliminate the Dodgers. That would make their year,” said longtime Giants radio broadcaster Mike Krukow, a former pitcher.
It’s hard to know what to make of the Dodgers even so late into this weird season of theirs.
Their run differential led the league heading into the season’s final three series, exceeding second-place Colorado’s by more than 100 runs.
Yet the Rockies have clung to them, and L.A.’s win-loss record was fourth in the NL entering the week.
Krukow sees the Dodgers as still formidable.
“They’re kind of peaking right now,” he said. “Dave Roberts did a good job. These guys are a very confident team right now.”
The numbers back Krukow up.
An 18-7 stretch that began in late August put the Dodgers in control of the West.
They were 19-7 in September. Praise the Rockies and Diamondbacks for putting up a fight, but the Dodgers once again drew upon extraordinary depth, the engine to their NL
It was probably no mere coincidence that when September arrived, allowing all teams to expand their 25-man active rosters, the Dodgers surged.
September games dialed up a horrid game of chess for Dodgers opponents who saw a veritable football-sized team in the other dugout.
“It’s tough because you always get the matchup you don’t want, whether you’re a pitcher or a hitter,” Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon said, per The Athletic. “They do a good job of having 35 competitive bigleague players. That makes it tough.”
Dodgers left fielder Chris Taylor celebrates with third-base coach Chris Woodward after hitting a walk-off solo home run against the Rockies during the 10th inning Sept. 18 at Dodger Stadium.
Dave Roberts had a 282-198 record managing the Dodgers entering the week.