The Los Angeles Dodgers are suddenly horrible and nobody can pinpoint why.
Skipper Dave Roberts admitted he "can't explain" why the Dodgers were stuck in a rut Friday after they had dropped their ninth consecutive game. On Monday, following a late, rain-delayed affair against the San Francisco Giants, the Dodgers walked back into the visiting clubhouse at AT&T Park now stuck in an 11-game slide, leaving even fewer explanations for their manager.
Let’s be clear, here: There isn’t a catch-all solution to the Dodgers’ woes. It’s now the middle of September, and while they’re still expected to take the division with ease, losing 11 in a row just prior to the postseason will butcher your momentum (if you believe in that sort of thing).
That said, though, the first step in problem solving is identifying the issues, and the Dodgers are dealing with a few.
Heart of the order beats with no sound
Puig and Turner appear to be the only ones on the roster who have remembered how to hit the baseball during their skid. In their 11 straight losses, the outfielder and third baseman have posted a .869 and .896 OPS, respectively, but everyone else has gone ice cold. When the entire team can only muster a .271 OBP, it's almost insignificant how well your best hitters are doing.
Curtis Granderson, acquired from the New York Mets in August and immediately thrown into the starting lineup, owns a .297 OPS in 26 at-bats during Los Angeles' dire stretch. Reigning Rookie of the Year Corey Seager hasn't fared much better, posting a .586 OPS during the skid despite slashing .308/.387/.492 on the season. Cody Bellinger's mark of .799 is healthier, but he's struck out in 26.2 percent of his at-bats in the 11 losses, contributing to an 0-for-7 mark with runners in scoring position since Sept. 2.
Hero hurlers have been solved
Not even Clayton Kershaw could bail them out.
On Sept. 1, in his first appearance since July with a back strain, Kershaw was lights out as he struck out 13 San Diego Padres hitters in seven shutout innings. That Kershaw then failed to show up Thursday against the Colorado Rockies, who shelled the pitcher for four earned runs and six hits, chasing him out of the game in just 3 2/3 innings.
Yu Darvish, who was expected to consolidate the Dodgers’ one-two punch heading into the postseason, has also been uncharacteristically off in his last two starts, allowing a total of 10 earned runs on 13 hits in a combined 7 1/3 innings.
To be fair, the rest of the rotation did its part. Rich Hill can't be faulted for the Dodgers' 13-0 blowout loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sept. 4 in which he went six frames and allowed just two runs, nor should he be blamed for the result of his next start, an 8-1 loss to the Rockies. Kenta Maeda, meanwhile, kept the Diamondbacks off the board for five innings Wednesday but was still let down by the bullpen in the eventual 3-1 loss. He can also be given a pass for allowing four in three innings to the Giants due to the near three-hour rain delay.
At any other point in the season, a poor outing from one of their two best starters wouldn’t be enough to derail the then-storming Dodgers. But when you factor in their missing bats and a bullpen blowing leads at the same time, the piling losses begin to make sense.
Maybe they really are ‘cursed’
For its Aug. 28 issue, Sports Illustrated chose to honor the Dodgers' season-long dominance in Major League Baseball. It was a reasonable observation; the club, then sitting at 91-38, was on pace to threaten the all-time record of 116 regular-season wins and were already 18 games clear in the National League West. Life was easy for them, and they, perhaps justifiably, took their foot off the pedal slightly.
Since then, Los Angeles went on to lose 13 of its next 14 games.
Realistically, jinxes, hexes, curses – whatever you insist on calling them – don’t actually exist, so let’s get that out of the way.
But consider the cover page from the perspective of the clubs who then looked at their upcoming schedules and were motivated twofold when they realized they would cross paths with the newly-anointed "best team ever." Those games suddenly mean that much more.
(Photos courtesy Action Images)
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