I’m just like the rest of the blue faithful. I want the Dodgers to win every game between now and the end of the season. Then I want the Dodgers to sweep every playoff series and claim the championship without cracking a sweat.
Of course, that’s not going to happen.
I have no doubts the Dodgers are on a magical mission that will culminate with a World Series win, but as we all know, they’re going to lose a few along the way. I accept this truth, but despite little threat to the Dodgers’ lead in the NL West, every loss hurts.
The Dodgers series against the Arizona Diamondbacks featured their first loss since June to a team not from Atlanta, and in the series finale, a game with a comfortable 8-2 lead quickly became a nail-biting, ninth inning, 8-6 save for Kenley Jansen. I’m here to tell you folks, we are going to see more of these. Not because the Dodgers are suddenly vulnerable or getting lazy. In fact, it’s the exact opposite.
The Dodgers served notice they are all in for a World Series run with the acquisition of Yu Darvish, and they are going to use the rest of the season – or at least as much as time and the standings will allow them – to clear the chaff and create the strongest postseason roster they possibly can.
The good news here is the team is not going to rest on its laurels and cruise into the playoffs. The not-so-great news is we are going to see a few losses in games the Dodgers should have won while they hold auditions to see which players will be dependable enough to make the postseason roster and starting lineup.
Clearly, the Dodgers are not going to throw games away, but their large division lead, and big score differentials like last night’s 8-2 lead, give the skipper breathing room to allow struggling bullpen pitchers extra rope to get out of jams, and slumping hitters will get extra at bats to work out the kinks in their swings.
The Dodgers have the luxury of allowing Logan Forsythe and Joc Pederson extra time to work out of slumps. In Forsythe’s case, it’s paying off and he’s begun adding RBIs to his usual walks. Pederson is the best defensive center fielder on the team, but his bat is becoming a liability. When Andre Ethier returns from the DL, Pederson’s starting job will be in serious jeopardy if he’s batting then like he is now. Pederson’s getting plenty of opportunity to turn things around, like a couple of nights ago, when despite being 0 for 3, he got a late inning, fourth at bat in a close game. He ended the night 0 for 4.
Brock Stewart didn’t do very well as a starter, and he had a rough time out of the bullpen last night. Every pitcher has rough outings, but make no mistake, the Dodgers are keeping a keen eye on Stewart and Tony Watson. Both pitchers were recently shelled, so their leashes are shortening. The Dodgers will give them (and others) plenty of audition time, which may result in big leads whittled away, and an occasional win transformed into a loss, or missed comebacks. But the strategy will also give players valuable experience in finding that extra something needed to turn a bad inning into a success.
Perhaps viewing those types of games through the filter of the Dodgers becoming a better team in the end will take a bit of the sting out of the team’s inevitable stumbles on the way to baseball’s crown.