The Major league baseball season takes some weird twists and turns. Something has clicked with the Dodgers over the past couple of nights and I don’t know what it is. I’ll take it though and very glad that it’s happened. The 2018 Dodgers have mostly been a supremely frustrating and under performing club. I recently wrote about the Dodger’s problems winning the close games. Of course as soon as I pen an article like that the Dodgers rally for back-to-back come from behind wins in as many days. I think I’ve found the solution here people, I’ll just keep writing articles pointing out the Dodger’s foibles.
All kidding aside, something finally changed. At one point about a week and a half ago the Dodgers were blowing games left and right and sat 4.5 games behind the Snakes in the NL West. The Dodger’s primary weaknesses this season has been their relief pitching and inability to hit with runners in scoring position. The boys in blue were sinking fast and if you were betting on baseball you wouldn’t have bet the Dodgers were going to be in a position to win their sixth consecutive National League West crown.
You wouldn’t have been wrong either. I had stated that the Dodgers were dead and buried. Perhaps I wasn’t exactly clear in what I meant. I meant that they seemed dead and buried because nobody had any confidence in them at the time based on how poorly they were playing. It seemed unlikely that they were going to just suddenly change on a dime. Nothing was improving at all.
The 2017 Dodgers had an uncanny ability to get the big hits in the clutch situations. That’s why they came from behind in so many games. No deficit was insurmountable for those 2017 Dodgers and that is why they advanced to the World Series for the first time in 29 years. The 2018 Dodgers have been a different story entirely. They’ve been unable to hit with runners in scoring position all season long. They’ve been unable to come from behind late in games. They’ve been unable to score without hitting the home run. They’ve been consistently one of the worst clutch performers in MLB this season. It’s September now and it was looking like there was little hope of that changing.
The first game of the series saw the Dodgers lose to the Dbacks 3-1 because of another dreadful offensive showing. That seemed to cement this prediction. As I noted above, something has changed. I don’t know what it was. Maybe they had some kind of closed door meeting? Or maybe they got sick of losing? Whatever it was, the Dodgers are showing some of the magic that they had in 2017. Are those pennant winning Dodgers back?
The problem is still there though. The Dodgers used the long ball to mount those rallies over the last two games. Otherwise they still have issues with men on base. I’m looking on the positive side here because I’ve seen something finally click. When Enrique Hernandez came off the bench to hit that pinch-hit solo home run to tie the game on Friday, it sparked the club. Sometimes one great play, or one big hit or home run can do the trick. Later in the next inning, Justin Turner smoked one out of the park to eventually give the Dodgers the win.
On Saturday night the club found itself in the same situation. Down 2-0 in the bottom of the eighth, they needed another late game rally in order to stave off defeat. They got some great at-bats during that fateful frame. Turner’s single to right got the rally started. Manny Machado’s 10-pitch walk against Archie Bradley setup the Matt Kemp three-run home run that won the game.
I know the Dodgers still haven’t proven they can hit with runners in scoring position. But they did something they weren’t previously doing. Even though they did it by hitting home runs, I still saw noticeable improvement. They didn’t just go down weakly. They had energy. They were aggressive. They took advantage of mistakes. Most importantly, they showed life. Perhaps this is the catalyst the Dodgers need for the remainder of the season. If the Dodgers continue to be aggressive, play with high energy and show a sense of urgency then they will be playing deep into October this fall.