The Dodgers start the last week in August with a day off, and maybe it’s a good time for it. The offense sure seems tired. Almost no-hit yesterday, and no runs scored Saturday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Now, these are not last year’s Brewers, who lost 89 games. This is a much better team, with pretty good pitching, and one that is making a playoff push at that. Currently they sit just two games back of the Chicago Cubs for first place in the NL Central, and 3.5 games back in the Wild Card race, behind the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies. They are playing for something, something close to their grasp. Now of course I’m not saying that the Dodgers are ‘not’ playing for anything. But maybe a 19 game lead can lull you into a sense of complacency. A thought of, it’s ok to relax for a minute or two.
Or, these are major leaguers who are working hard, every day, with aches and pains and are just tired. And they came up against a pretty good team, and lost a couple games. Doesn’t mean the losses hurt any less, but not all losses are created equal.
I think it’s easy enough as fans, to see a lackluster performance like this past weekend, and immediately jump ahead in your mind to the postseason. ‘Oh goodness, if they can’t beat a team that’s playing them tough now, what are they going to do in October?!?’ I know that I am guilty of it, as much as I try not to go there. The last few postseasons have shaped my ever optimistic mind into pessimism in that area. And loses, and watching a what feels likes a sub-par performance, hurts regardless.
But, the good news as we all know, is that our big guys are right on the verge of coming back! First, and maybe most importantly, Cody Bellinger is due to be activated off the 10-day disabled list on Wednesday. The lineup has not been the same without him in it. The Dodgers offense is batting just .219 in their last nine games. Cody was missing from eight of those games. The Dodgers are 6-4 over their last 10 games. Not terrible by any stretch, but not nearly at the blistering pace they were at a month ago.
Bellinger is sure to see plenty of time back at first base when he is reinstated, especially with Adrian Gonzalez experiencing both an offensive slump, and back issues again. Could the two be related? Quite possibly, but time will have to tell on that one.
Clayton Kershaw is the other big piece coming back. After a very good rehab outing this past Saturday in Oklahoma City, where he went five innings, struck out eight and only slowed two hits, albeit one being a home run, Kershaw is set to return to the starting rotation this coming weekend in San Diego, where he is slated to start Friday. He has admittedly been chomping at the bit to get back to the rotation, and while the pitching hasn’t been a huge issue while he was gone, his return is sure to be a big spark to the team.
In fact, the strong performance by Dodgers bullpen just earned them Bullpen of the Week honors. They had a combined 1.29 ERA over 29 innings of work. While the starting rotation has been pretty good, they are not going long into games, (aside from Rich Hill) and the bullpen is holding up their end of the bargain. Clayton’s return also adds another start when you would assume he will go deep into the game and give the bullpen some rest.
The next three games pose a tough matchup against the Diamondbacks, a team that cannot win the division, but can try to gain a bigger lead over Colorado and Milwaukee in the wild card race.
Roster expansion also starts on Friday, September 1, so even more reinforcements are set to join the Dodgers. While the loses are frustrating, as they say, help is on the way.
(FOLLOW ANDY ON TWITTER: @DODGERSANDYINPA)