Dodgers Look to Continue Winning Ways Against Nationals

Although there is still a lot of work left to be done, those of us in Dodgers Nation can breathe a little sigh of relief after the recent series in San Francisco. Our beloved team is starting to look like the powerhouse team it was earlier in the season.

There are still some issues to worry about. While Yu Darvish looked really good in his outing Wednesday, he pitched the entire game from the stretch. Maybe he’s still searching for the exact arm slot from which to throw his fastball.  But the fact that his curve was working, and that he pitched seven shutout innings, should do wonders for his confidence, and much to build on going forward.

Pedro Baez still doesn’t seem to be able to do anything right out of the bullpen, and has limited time to fix whatever his issues are. When he’s on, he’s as good as anyone to span the bridge to Kenley Jansen. If he’s off in the playoffs, especially at home, he’s liable to get booed right out of Dodger Stadium.

Stranding runners on the base paths seems to be an evergreen problem for the Boys in Blue. But the fact that multiple batters are reaching base an inning is encouraging, when during the losing streak players were getting on every so often.

After much tweaking, the playoff lineup seems to be working its way into shape. Logan Forsythe, who is now batting over .300 against left-handed pitchers, will see himself in that scenario with Chase Utley going against righties. Austin Barnes is working his way into the lineup more often with his bat doing the speaking for him. Barnes has a slash line of .294/.413/.471./884. Compare that with Chase Utley’s line of .230/.323/.396/.719 and a case can be made for Barnes to be in the lineup at second against righties and also spelling Yasmani Grandal more behind the plate.

And poor Curtis Granderson. He cannot seem to find his swing for anything. He has only eight hits since joining the Dodgers about a month ago, and while he is a streaky player, one can only hope he finds his swing just in time for October. Will he be roaming left field during he playoffs, and can he be counted on to be a reliable bat off the bench? Time will tell, but I surely hope so, both for the teams’ sake, and his, and he’s just such an incredible guy.

The team now heads into Washington for three-game series with the Nationals, and maybe this series couldn’t come at a better time.  The Dodgers currently hold a five-game lead over the Nats for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Especially after L.A. beat Washington last year 3-2 in the NLDS, and that the best record in the National League could be up for grabs, it will be a playoff-like atmosphere.

The Dodgers will send Alex Wood, Rich Hill and Hyun-Jin Ryu to the mound to face the Nats, who were the first team in the majors to clinch their division. L.A. will miss Max Scherzer, and will face Edwin Jackson, A.J. Cole, and Stephen Strasburg.

This will be a test for the Dodgers, still not far removed from that horrific losing streak and there will be a lot to watch for. Can Wood regain his first half dominance, miss bats and keep the balls on the ground? Can the lineup continue to produce runs? Can the bullpen come back to where they were a month or so ago? Can the bats that have gone quiet in recent games once again start making some noise?

I think the losing streak has strengthened the Dodgers’ resolve, and made them much more acutely aware of what is actually on the line. They are confronted with the team that could take home field advantage away from them throughout the playoffs, and one that’s seeking to get some from the last postseason. I think they will rise to the challenge and continue to get some more wins in, and take another series from the Nationals.

(FOLLOW ANDY ON TWITTER: @DODGERSANDYINPA)

 

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