Fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers are finding things very frustrating at the moment. Sure, the team has the second-best record in the majors and are just coming off of a World Championship. But they could and should be doing so much better.
This time of the season is also fraught with worry and suspense over what the front office will do to better the team at the trade deadline. And, this year more so than in recent years, the Dodgers definitely need one, if not two or three significant upgrades in the pitching department if they want to repeat as World Series champions.
As has been discussed many times, in the starting rotation, the Dodgers have two starters who can go deep into games, in Walker Buehler and Julio Urías. They have two long openers, as it were, in David Price and Tony Gonsolin. Clayton Kershaw will be back from his IL stint sometime in August, and Trevor Bauer may not be back this season at all.
I have no doubt the Dodgers front office will figure something out and get another reliable starter at the trade deadline. But that is still more than a week away and the bullpen will have to try to keep games close that much longer.
Manager Dave Roberts has said that as Mookie Betts goes, so goes the team. The team is 18-6 when Betts has multiple hits in a game. Conversely, they have lost seven of their last eight when Mookie has not been in the lineup. Betts has been unable to play since Sunday with soreness is his hip that has been bothering him all year.
In as such, the bullpen has had to hold close leads and is not always able to do so. In Wednesday’s game against the NL West leading San Francisco Giants, Urías had a stellar outing, going seven full innings and allowing only one earned run. Blake Treinen held the eighth, and Kenley Jansen did not have it in the ninth, allowing three runs to score and the Dodgers could not answer in the bottom of the ninth. The Dodgers only mustered two runs the entire game.
In Monday’s game, starter Gonsolin allowed three runs in the top of the first. The offense countered by scoring two runs in the bottom of the first… and then going silent. The four runs given up by Phil Bickford and Victor González almost didn’t matter as the offense could only get four hits the whole game.
Tuesday’s game was the fun one sandwiched in the middle. Down 6-1 in the top of the fifth, the team battled back and won on a walk-off, three-run home run by Will Smith. The win came against the Giants closer Tyler Rogers, who has been very good all season. Chris Taylor called it “probably our biggest win so far.” And yet, Wednesday they were not able to reproduce that sense of urgency to win, even though a victory would have brought them back into first, tied with the Giants.
162 games is a grind, even under the best of conditions. Coming off a 60-game, pandemic-shortened season is nothing any player has ever been through before. And as frustrating as it is for fans watching, it has to be more frustrating as a player, knowing you’re better than what’s showing on the field.
Roberts keeps reiterating that the team has yet to be at full strength this season, and that is true. It’s a testament to their team that they’ve been able to stay within two games out of first with all the of turmoil and injuries they’ve been through. The end goal is to be healthy at the end of the season for the playoff push. Still, the team that wins the NL West should have the best position to come out of the National League to make it to the World Series.
“We have not seen our team at our best yet,” said Roberts. Fans and players alike cannot wait for that day to come.