“Is where you’ll find me hiding waiting for you
The space between your heart and mind
Is the space we’ll fill with time
The space between
The tears we cry is the laughter keeps us coming back for more”
~Dave Matthews Band
Now that the division is clinched, there’s a lull of sorts in the Dodgers baseball world. At least it feels to me that way. The way the Dodgers came back from eight games behind the San Francisco Giants to win the division by eight games was such a long, strenuous journey, and the subsequent way they clinched the division on an epic walk-off home run in extra innings was such a high. Now the six remaining games don’t feel quite as important or intriguing.
But of course they are. The Dodgers are currently two games behind the Washington Nationals for home field advantage in the NLDS. If it comes down to a tie, the Dodgers hold the tiebreaker as they’ve won more games head to head against the Nationals. Home field feels more important in a shorter series than in a longer one, but at the risk of being too confident, I don’t know that the Dodgers need it for this series. They match up well against the Nationals. Washington also just lost their starting catcher Wilson Ramos to injury, and pitcher Stephen Strasburg is out for the playoffs. Not to say that the Dodgers shouldn’t go out and play hard every game to get the home field advantage. I do feel that getting the best team possible ready for the playoffs is the most important issue right now.
These last six games also serve as tune up, or for certain players having one last chance to state their case for being on the postseason roster. Part of that postseason roster has already come out. The first three starting pitchers, to no one’s surprise, will be Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda. The fourth starter is still in question. Julio Urias has definitely earned the right. Brandon McCarthy looked pretty good in his start on Sunday against the Colorado Rockies. Scott Kazmir appears to be done for the season. Alex Wood has looked good so far in his relief appearances. One advantage the Dodgers have is the pitchers they are able to use out of the bullpen for long relief. Ross Stripling especially has excelled at coming in in the middle of the game and giving two to four strong innings in relief.
As far as position players go, manager Dave Roberts announced that Yasiel Puig has made the postseason roster. “He’s earned it,” Roberts said. For his part, Puig is doing and saying all the right things. “It was my fault I was in Triple-A,” he said. “I had to improve my discipline and things with my hitting, my defense. I wasn’t doing what I had to do.”
I’m very happy he has made it back. He adds a certain fun factor, and a looseness that can help in stressful postseason situations. But I also believe that his time spent in Triple-A and the passing of Jose Fernandez will give him the gravity and maturity he needs for that same stressful time coming in the postseason.
I also have to say that I really like the way this team is playing together. There is a little something different about this team. Maybe it’s Roberts’ managing style. Maybe it’s full year under Chase Utley‘s leadership. Maybe it’s the way it’s a different hero every night. Maybe it’s all the injuries along the way, that has forced them to go out and play their hardest no matter who else was on the field with them, because in any given game it could be anyone. Most likely it is the culmination of all of these things. They feel like a true team in the every sense of the word, and it will take a true team to get through these playoffs.
Personally, I am taking the time in this space between to catch up on my sleep, recover from an amazing trip to LA last weekend for the final home stand, and mentally prepare myself for the last three games that we are blessed to have Vin Scully call. And also, maybe, allow myself to daydream of what could be awaiting us in this postseason.