The Dodgers are mired in a similar malaise that strangled them in the first half of the season. The club has lost four in a row and nine of their last 12, and have stalled out with a magic number of 4 to clinch the NL West division crown. If the Dodgers can just manage to win two of these four games against the Dbacks, it’s over.
Before I get into my spiel, please understand I think the team has done a terrific job by making this incredible run, and turning their season around. The club was playing out of their mind for a long stretch, and we knew at some point the team would run out of steam. But this is a really bad time to empty the tank. I won’t chastise the team if they get knocked out of the playoffs. Yes of course I will be very upset, but I love the Dodgers. More than you know. Sometimes I think I love the Dodgers too much. (probably not possible, but you get the point) I won’t rip them apart. But these routine outs have got to stop.
Look the Dodgers are going to make the playoffs. They’re going to win the division, but the natives are getting restless, and I am too. This has gone on long enough. The Dodgers have been stuck on the magic number of 4 for what seems like an eternity. This is crunch time. It’s put up or shut-up. There are only 12 games remaining in the 2013 regular season. The Dodgers have a 9.5 game lead. The Dodgers are going to win because it’s a matter of math. But not because I think the Dodgers will necessarily put it together, but because I don’t think that Arizona is going to win 11 of their last 12 games. No way. But the way the Dodgers are going, they easily could if they don’t break themselves of these nasty habits.
The offense is killing the team. Injuries, yeah whatever. Look, they had Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, Mark Ellis, A.J. Ellis, and Juan Uribe all in the lineup yesterday and could still only muster up one run on four hits against Trevor Cahill and Buddies. I’m sick of the injuries and excuses here. The pitching has been generally excellent, and the defense has been much improved. The offense is not scoring enough runs to win and it’s dragging the team down. Get it together. Here is how I think the Dodgers should do it.
1. Stop bunting. Good lord please stop bunting. Just stop it. Make it stop.
Bunting is a stupid and archaic strategy. It’s not applicable anymore. There is no empirical evidence that says that Bunting lead to runs. Even when the bunt is executed properly, it still doesn’t work. Take last night’s irritating 2-1 loss to the Dbacks as an example. With the Dodgers down 2-1 in the top of the ninth, the Dodgers mounted a rally against Brad Ziegler. Pinch-hitter Michael Young and Skip Schumaker led off with base hits. The Dodgers had runners at first and second with none out. They had the Snakes right there. You know if there is a way to kill a scoring rally, Mattingly will find it. So of course Don Mattingly busts out the bunt, ordering Juan Uribe to lay one down for no apparent reason. So Uribe does, the bunt was actually not terribly executed, but the Dbacks just made a good play, Ziegler coming off the mound to throw out the lead runner at third. Wasted out. This was so powerfully stupid it made me hurt. I cringed when I saw Uribe square around to bunt. But it wasn’t just the fact that the Dodgers wasted a precious out, or that even that they took the bat out of one of their hottest hitters hands. I mean geebus, Uribe hit four home runs on the last home stand for crying out loud. No, that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was who was on deck. None other than career minor leaguer and automatic out, Nick Buss. The Snakes disposed of Buss quickly on a ground out, and then pinch-hitter Matt Kemp, making his first appearance in ages, whiffed to end the game. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Stop playing Nick Buss
OMG you have to stop this. Just stop it. Stop playing him. No offense to Chilli, but why? Why not play someone like Alex Castellanos who has power and speed, and has a good arm. I can’t believe the Dodgers can’t find a major league level player to step in from the bench when the rosters have expanded. I mean good god man. If I see one more lineup with Nick Buss in it I’m going to lose it.
3. Suck it up
I know everyone is hurt at the moment, and that obviously affects the offensive production, but it’s time to suck it up. None of the injuries are career threatening. Hanley has a sciatic nerve issue, which is more serious sounding than it is. It’s basically a sore back. Carl Crawford has a rusty back. Andre Ethier has a sore ankle. This happens at the end of the season. Guys are tired, theyre banged up, but you know what? Tough. The Dodgers can not win with these triple-A lineups every night. It’s time to get Hanley back in the lineup at least, and maybe even Van Slyke. I don’t care, suck it up. If they hurt themselves again, then take them out and rest them, but at this point, all the Dodgers need is like two more wins, just suck it up. Sometimes players have to play through injuries. It’s crunch time. Good god man Mickey Mantle played 20 damned years with no cartilage in his knees. Sandy Koufax pitched half a season with a numb pitching hand. Are these guys wimps? Suck it up and play.
4. Get a running game
This is something I could never understand. Where is the Dodger running game? I’ve been harping on this since April. The Dodgers rank at the bottom of the league in stolen bases (74) and general base running. Why not put guys in the lineup that can help with that? There’s already Castellanos, and what about Dee Gordon? I know he’s not a good defensive player, but he runs the bases very well. Why not put him at second base for a couple of games? I watched Gordon play second base for a couple of innings this weekend and he wasn’t bad. The shorter distance from second to first will help with the errant throws. If you’re expecting gold glove defense from Gordon than you’re delusional. He may never be that type of player. Lower your expectations. I love Mark Ellis, he’s a solid player, but he isn’t hitting very much right now. If you can put Nick Buss in the lineup then there’s no reason on Earth that you can’t throw Gordon at second base a couple of games.
5. Knock off the horrible plate approaches.
This is a big one. The plate approaches are terrible, and that’s why the Dodger hitters are just making routine outs. It’s so painful to watch. Just weak grounder after whiff, after pop-up. The Dodgers only had four hits last night, and two were from Punto. They struck out nine times. Gonzo’s top of the sixth inning at-bat was a good example. With the bases loaded and none out, and the starting pitcher had just walked two batters and gave up a double. He was all over the place. Gonzo first pitch swung and popped out to shallow left field. Often times the Dodger hitters will just take strikes and swing at balls until they fall out of hitters counts. Whatever happened to working counts? How is it that they still can’t hit Cahill? They’ve only faced him like nine thousand times. Don’t they go into the video room every once in a while? Do they read their scouting reports? You have to have some kind of mental approach at the plate, otherwise you’re just guessing and swinging. Figure it out.
The Dodgers are going to eventually win the division. If they don’t do it in Arizona, then they can do it in San Diego. But that’s not what I want. The Dodgers have a golden opportunity to wrap up the division crown in front of the Dback fans. It would be perfectly ironic and delicious. I am so sick of the Dbacks. They started a brawl with us and have been annoying for years. It would be fitting and joyous to celebrate on their home field. Make them watch the Dodgers clinch. Make them all suffer. It has to happen. I want that.
All the Dodgers need to do is win two out of the next three games. Then once they do that then Mattingly can have all the fun he wants with the lineup. Once the Dodgers win the division, then he can start Nick Buss, and Drew Butera until his heart’s content. Heck bat Butera cleanup and Buss third for all I care, but not until the division is clinched. Just give us that division crown and playoffs. Just get it down. Enough excuses. I want to see champagne popping in the next couple of days. Do not screw this up Dodgers!