The Los Angeles Dodgers are quite familiar with the position they find themselves in. Just two seasons ago they rode a historic 43-7 stretch to storm out to the best record in baseball and eventual World Series appearance for the first time since 1988.
Although L.A. paced the Majors in wins reached the Fall Classic, where they ultimately came up short in a Game 7 loss to the Houston Astros, the close to the regular season included a stretch from late August and into September where they lost 16 of 17 games.
Though some frustration may have set in, it hardly impact their placement in the standings. Now the Dodgers are looking to avoid the same stumble as they juggle getting back to — and maintaining — health along with keeping sharp.
“It’s a balance. Guys like A.J., Corey with the history of the hamstring, we’ve got to be conscious of the workload with J.T.,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.
“The most important thing is the players are on board and they understand. All guys want to play, but just really being mindful of preventing injury — there’s a balance because we’ve ultimately got to keep these guys sharp as we get into the postseason.”
Although the Dodgers currently remain without the likes of David Freese, Kiké Hernandez, Rich Hill and Chris Taylor, among others, there’s a sense this year’s club will not endure a similar losing stretch as 2017.
“It was a funky year. I think the dynamic changed in September,” Roberts recalled. “No excuses, we just didn’t play well. There was kind of a quirky dynamic but we just didn’t play well, to be honest.”
Roberts declined to elaborate on his perception of how matters changed. “I don’t remember. It’s too far and in my distant memory,” he said with a laugh.
It’s unclear what specifically Roberts may have been alluding to, but that season’s Dodgers were working to integrate newcomers Yu Darvish and Curtis Granderson, along with foster the return of Andre Ethier and find an ideal spot in the batting order for Yasiel Puig.
Furthermore, the arrival of Granderson led to Joc Pederson getting demoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City for two weeks. Corey Seager’s right elbow also began to cause him some discomfort, and Walker Buehler was being tested as a relief pitcher.
While the Dodgers boast a wealth of depth again this season, roles are well-defined and their daily focus remains unchanged. “We know ultimately what our goal is,” Roberts said.
“We can’t control the future, and I think our guys have 100% bought in to doing whatever it takes to win a game today. I think when you’re down three runs with one strike to go, and you don’t give away an at-bat, or you’re still hustling to make a play when you’re up nine runs in the ninth inning or down nine runs, there’s a certain way we play.
“To think you can elevate your play once you get to the postseason, that’s very unrealistic. All the credit goes to our guys.
“From Opening Day to the dog days of July or August, regardless of opponent, this is how we play. That’s the mark of a great culture, a great team. Every out, every game is important. One of the things I’m most proud of is the way our guys go about each day.”