No panic among slumping Dodgers heading into stretch run
LOS ANGELES (AP) Strong finishes have been the hallmark of the Los Angeles Dodgers in recent years, so their current season-worst stretch of eight losses in nine games isn’t causing any panic.
The Dodgers continue to cruise with baseball’s best mark of 92-44 while playing the final month of the season with no urgency to win. They’ve all but mathematically locked up a record fifth consecutive NL West title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Their status as a prohibitive World Series favorite is secure, too.
”Everyone is pretty focused on one game at a time,” third baseman Justin Turner said. ”We’ve done a great job of it all year, not looking ahead and not looking at what we’ve already accomplished.”
They’re on a pace to become the only team in the majors to win more than 100 games and if they split their remaining 26 games it would give them a franchise record-tying 105 wins for the first time since 1953.
For the last few months, it looked like the Dodgers would challenge Seattle’s major-league single-season record of 116 victories, but that possibility all but ended with their current slump.
The Dodgers return home Monday to host second-place Arizona, which swept them in Phoenix last week. Colorado arrives later in the week for a four-game series.
Los Angeles is getting its big guns back just in time for the stretch run.
Ace Clayton Kershaw came off the disabled list and was sharp in his first start in five weeks, holding San Diego to two infield singles in six innings in a 1-0 victory last Friday. Fellow lefty Alex Wood returned from the DL on Sunday and lost for just the second time since July 21.
Los Angeles has 13 games remaining both at home and on the road, including a visit to NL East-leading Washington.
”These guys are trying to win every single game and there’s a certain way we play every single day,” manager Dave Roberts said. ”I don’t see that changing.”
In their first season under Roberts, the Dodgers went 17-10 from Sept. 1 to the end of the regular season last year. In three previous seasons under manager Don Mattingly, they were 48-35 over the same stretch.
They won’t need to be that dominant to win another division title, so clinching early would allow the Dodgers to set up their rotation for the NL Division Series.
”We do have that luxury,” Roberts said.
At the same time, though, he’s wary of giving players too much time off.
”They could be rested, but they still have to be sharp,” Roberts said. ”The conversations I have with position players and our pitchers on a daily basis is to understand their individual needs. I could say give Corey Seager (time off), but who is to say he’s going to come back sharp? You’ve got to manage those things.”
Turner isn’t worried about the Dodgers shutting it off the rest of this month and then trying to turn it back on for the postseason.
”With this team competing every night and not worrying about the records or where we’re at, that’s going to create a positive environment throughout September and a competitive environment,” he said.
”Guys are going to be playing to make postseason rosters and earn jobs in the postseason. There’s going to be a lot of competition. Whichever way it shakes out, we’re going to continue getting better.”
Regardless of what the Dodgers have done so far, nothing matters until October rolls around. This is a tradition-rich franchise eager to make its first World Series appearance since 1988.
”It just goes back to the maturity of the team and understanding how to show up and win a game every night,” Turner said. ”It really doesn’t matter what day of the year it is.”
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