The Los Angeles Dodgers are in their first slump of the season, but could that actually help them in the playoffs?
Barring a 25-0 finish, the Los Angeles Dodgers will come up a few games short of beating the 116 wins of the 2001 Seattle Mariners, the MLB record since the institution of the 162-game schedule.
After finding a way to win seemingly every game this year, the Dodgers have hit a skid with nine losses in ten games, including losing both games of a double header against the lowly San Diego Padres. They have also lost four straight games to the red-hot Arizona Diamondbacks, including a 13-0 laugher on Monday night.
During the skid, the Dodgers have found new and creative ways to lose that had not yet been discovered by the 2017 squad. In six of their past 11 games, they have scored two runs or less. All-Star shortstop Corey Seager has batted only three times since August 27 while he nurses a sore elbow.
This losing streak came out of nowhere for the Dodgers, but it could not have happened at a better time. Winning 117 games — or even being in the hunt with two weeks to go — would have been nice, but going for the record would have forced Dave Roberts to ride his rotation and lineup hard to the finish. Now, Seager can be given extra time to heal his elbow, Justin Turner can take a few days off to rest his body, Alex Wood can skip a start and Roberts can freely use his September callups out of the bullpen without worrying about jeopardizing a shot at history.
Winning 73 games consumed the 2016 Golden State Warriors down the stretch, and their final two weeks were played under a circus-like atmosphere even when the team had already clinched the number-one seed. Those Warriors very nearly missed the NBA Finals, and their 73 wins lost some luster after blowing a 3-1 lead to Cleveland.
With four weeks left in the regular season, the focus for the Dodgers now turns to setting the rotation for the playoffs, getting healthy and rested and ramping things back up for October. This losing streak could not have been more perfectly timed. The Dodgers can now take an opportunity to rest starters off and on for the next two weeks without having to worry about getting too rusty before the important games start.
Since taking the helm as Dodgers manager, Roberts has been one of the best in the league at knowing when to dial back his players. He has had no problem removing starters in the middle of a no-hitter if it was best for their health long term. Given a full month of essentially meaningless games, Roberts will press the right buttons and have his team in the best possible shape for October.
Regardless of how many games the Dodgers win before the end of the year, they will enter the playoffs with an inordinate amount of pressure. This is a franchise that has not won a World Series since 1988 despite frequently spending more money than anyone else. Four straight NL West crowns have netted the Dodgers zero trips to the World Series and four total wins in the second round of the playoffs. This has to be their year regardless of who holds the single-season MLB record for wins.
With the 116-win mark slipping out of reach, one giant weight has been lifted off the backs of the entire roster. This has been a magical season for the Dodgers. It is unlikely that another team in MLB history will ever go 65-16 over an 81-game stretch. That was an incomprehensibly dominant run for the Dodgers, but their legacy among the all-time great teams will only be cemented by winning a title.
For a team like the Dodgers, success is not defined by setting regular-season records. Sad as that may be, this is the sporting culture that rules the day in 2017. Win games, set records along the way, but fall short at the end, and forever be remembered as a failure. October is all that matters this year for the Dodgers, and thanks to this losing streak — a blessing in disguise — that’s where their full energy can rest.