Dodgers ride surge:

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - INSIDE - Tom Kraso­vic Spe­cial to USA TO­DAY

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.

Whew.

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.

Still dan­ger­ous

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

West dom­i­nance.

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.”

GARY A. VASQUEZ/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

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.

ISA­IAH J. DOWN­ING/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Dave Roberts had a 282-198 record manag­ing the Dodgers en­ter­ing the week.

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