Three Up, Three Down: Have Dodgers Found Starting Second Baseman?

Do you remember last Monday? The Los Angeles Dodgers were playing the opener of a three-game series against the San Diego Padres, who seemed to be breathing down their neck in the National League West standings.

The Dodgers lost 7-2 thanks in part to a disastrous seventh inning. On a live edition of “DodgerHeads,” we discussed what went wrong for the team and why there was still reason to be optimistic.

It was by Padres fans declaring the end of the Dodgers’ reign atop the NL West.

Good times.

The Dodgers responded by winning the next two games, taking another series victory and extending their divisional lead. All this in a series the Dodgers appeared more interested in self evaluation for the postseason than sending a message.

With both teams coming out of an off day, the Dodgers enter Tuesday four games up on the Padres. Their magic number to clinch the division is just two.

The Padres are for real, and the future is bright, but this was a healthy reminder that the while the Dodgers’ past was bright, their outlook is even brighter.

Three Up

1) Heading into the season, if there was one question mark on the Dodgers roster it was second base. Although, many people penciled in super-prospect Gavin Lux into that spot without blinking.

Fast-forward to the final week of the regular season, and while Lux was finally recalled after starting off at the alternate training site, his performance hasn’t improved on the trajectory many would have hoped for.

Enter Chris Taylor, who was the Dodgers’ best hitter last week (.292/.370/.708 with two home runs and seven RBIs).

Now, of the seven games the Dodgers played last week, Taylor only made two starts at second base (in addition to two at shortstop and two in left field) — but it’s easy to see how second base makes the most sense for him once the lineup steadies out.

So far this season, Taylor is third on the team in WAR (Fangraphs) thanks to a healthy .281/.378/.491 slash line with seven home runs and three stolen bases. With just six games remaining, it’s clear that Taylor should be playing every day.

The easiest spot to find at-bats would appear to be second base.

2) This is becoming a broken record, but wow have Clayton Kershaw and Tony Gonsolin been good of late. Check out their lines from the week:

Kershaw: 13.1 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 15K

Gonsolin: 12 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 12 K

You could even make the argument that Kershaw’s line was inflated by bad luck last week when he gave up a pair of soft singles and the bullpen let both runs score.

Now to Gonsolin. He started the series finale at Coors Field, threw 82 pitches and struck out 10 batters, generating — wait for it — 19 whiffs in the process. That’s insane.

3) Without celebrating prematurely, has Cody Bellinger figured things out? Last week he batted .320/.433/.520 with a home run. His season average now up to .231.

In fact, after Friday’s game he said something that might be the most encouraging, “I think in general I’m just having fun with it.”

The Dodgers have been fine without Bellinger producing at the clip we’re accustomed to —- and they might have even been able to win the World Series without him hitting at an MVP level.

But if Bellinger can figure it out, it will give the Dodgers far more margin for error — which, in this season, could be crucial.

Three Down

1) My ability to handicap an MVP race. In my first edition of Three Up and Three Down, it was pointed out how Mookie Betts likely no chance to win the MVP because of the gap Fernando Tatis Jr. had established.

Now, before folks get too excited, Betts still probably isn’t the favorite given what Freddie Freeman is doing (his on-base percentage is almost .500), and Manny Machado has also put together a strong year.

But, Betts will be the best player on the best team, with a narrative to boot. So there’s a chance.

2) It was another rough week for Max Muncy in a season that is quickly running out of time. According to WAR, Muncy was the team’s 30th-most-valuable player over this latest stretch, generating -0.1 wins above replacement (tied with Lux unfortunately).

Not only did he hit .143/.308/.190, but his defense was a problem in a loss to the Padres as well.

3) Looking beyond the field, next up is Dodgers Twitter.

To see fans losing their mind after a loss to the Padres was a bit much considering the stakes, and when taking into account the clear intentions of manager Dave Roberts. There is a long postseason ahead.

Let’s all take a deep breath and do our best to enjoy the ride!

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