The Los Angeles Dodgers clinched the National League West at the earliest point in the franchise’s history since moving from Brooklyn, and with that triggered a ripple effect. As it were, the inevitability of claiming a seventh consecutive division title was already being balanced with other points of focus.
While the Dodgers have remained in the hunt for the best record in baseball, the chase has been juggled with getting back to full health. Rich Hill, Joe Kelly, Max Muncy, Justin Turner and Alex Verdugo are among those to have fallen victim to injury over recent weeks.
Beyond that, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts additionally has continued to essentially hold auditions and attempt to prepare players for the postseason by putting them in specific situations.
“To get J.T. in the lineup, that’s always a good thing; to not push him is important,” Roberts said after Saturday’s loss. “To get Julio in the game, that’s a good thing, and Kenta. You’re trying to check boxes, get guys prepared for what potentially is to come, but you’re still trying to win a baseball game.
“With the postseason, you look at a five-game series, there’s two games, one day off. Another two, day off. You can’t simulate the intensity but as far as the rhythm or trying to prepare to go back out there, I think there’s something to that.
“Like I said, you’re mixing and matching, trying to check boxes, get guys prepared but still win a baseball game. I played the matchup game a little bit but it was more important to get these guys in there.”
Though Roberts has continued to maintain the Dodgers are not deliberately risking the outcome of games, their evaluation process would appear to be taking precedent. That’s despite the best record in the NL still hanging in the balance, and the Houston Astros and New York Yankees remaining ahead in the standings.
Saturday’s game marked the first time Kenta Maeda has pitched on back-to-back nights this season. Julio Urias’ relief appearance came in the middle of an inning, and Dustin May was given an opportunity to finish out the eighth.
With Turner now back from a sprained left ankle, the Dodgers’ biggest uncertainly lies with the pitching staff. Hill is attempting to return to the rotation next week and conceivably could be in position to start a Game 4 during the postseason.
If not, Roberts has already indicated the Dodgers are fully prepared to take an unorthodox approach.