The Dodgers have been beating the crap out of everyone in August. They came into tonight’s series opener against the Braves with a 24-4 record in the month of August. That’s the single season best record in a month for any Dodgers club. No team has won 24 games in a month since the 2002 moneyball Oakland A’s. The Dodgers have a 13 game lead in the NL West, so this game is meaningless. The Braves have an equally large lead in their division, so other than bragging rights the only other story that factored is postseason positioning. Many people consider this four game series a postseason or possibly NLCS preview. The Dodgers almost overcame a 7-1 deficit by scoring 6 runs to cut Atlanta’s lead to 8-7. The game came down to the final at-bat in the bottom of the ninth, but the Braves held on to defeat the Dodgers 8-7. The Dodger comeback was impressive and fun, but almost only counts in horseshoes. Yet the question remains, does this game and series matter?
I ponder this because while the game was entertaining, the results don’t mean anything. Or do they? After all both teams look to be equally matched, although early on in this affair it didn’t seem so. Atlanta Cy Young candidate Spencer Strider was dominating the Dodgers early. Meanwhile Lance Lynn dissolved on the mound, allowing seven earned runs and three home runs in 4.1 rough innings. Probable MVP Ronald Acuna Jr. notched three hits and smashed a grand slam home run to put the Braves up 4-1 in the second. Atlanta added home runs from Michael Harris and Austin Riley and it looked like the Dodgers had finally met their match. The Dodgers are a very good club, but the Braves appeared like an elite team.
But the Dodgers never quit no matter what the score is. That’s what differentiates this Dodger’s team from teams past. Mookie Betts (who hit two home runs) clubbed a three-run shot in the fifth to cut the score to 7-4. With one swing of Mookie’s powerful bat the Dodgers were right back in it and so was the crowd. The momentum swung in the top of the sixth when a costly Max Muncy error allowed an Atlanta run to cross the plate and it was 8-4 Braves.
Muncy would atone for his fielding gaffe by hitting a home run in the bottom of the eighth, but before that rookie Michael Busch hooked one into the right field corner over the low wall against reliever Joe Jiminez to cut the score to 8-5. Later in that frame Mookie hit his second home run of the game and it was now 8-6 Atlanta.
Muncy’s Homer in the eighth off of A.J. Minter put the Dodgers within one run, with the score now 8-7. The Dodgers had a real look at the game in the eighth when Chris Taylor walked, and James Outman singled. But the Braves got the better of the Pierce Johnson/Amed Rosario matchup when Johnson whiffed Rosario and the Dodgers couldn’t push across another run.
In the bottom of the ninth, Mookie led off but flied out. Then Freddie Freeman walked and Will Smith singled through the hole against closer Raisel Iglesias. Muncy with a chance to win the game, just missed it flying out to deep right. Enrique Hernandez followed by striking out to end the game.
The Dodgers are now 83-50, despite the loss have a firm grasp on the second postseason seeding in the National League. Should we even care about this game? After all the Dodgers and Braves both won over 100 games last year and didn’t make it out of the NLDS. Perhaps the Dodgers were just due to lose one after having such a scorching August? Or maybe the Braves are just a very good team? Or what if the Dodgers don’t even face the Braves in the postseason this year? As so many people like to point out to me, the playoffs are a crapshoot (I don’t believe so but just using that as a talking point) the two teams might not even face each other. Or what if they do? The Dodgers made two big mistakes during this one. Lynn walking nine-hitter Nicky Lopez with the bases loaded and Acuna on deck was the first. Muncy’s throwing error was the second. You can’t make any mistakes against the Braves. Or was this just the first round of a heavyweight battle between two baseball juggernauts? There are so many questions and so little answers right now.
I don’t know. I can’t answer these questions yet. Do these games matter? You tell me.