They were built for unprecedented greatness, a quest that only got stronger with a spectacular start. But now, five and a half weeks into their season as reigning champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers are basically average. A starting record of 13-2 has been followed by 15 losses in a 20-game stretch, a surprising reversal that has the Dodgers at 18-17 as they rank third in a division they have dominated for most of the last. decade.
“I’m angry, personally,” Dodgers starter Trevor Bauer said after a 2-1 loss to city rival Los Angeles Angels on Sunday afternoon. “I hate losing. I want to win. That’s why I came here. We are not playing to our best right now.”
After Bauer curved slightly overhead Angels first baseman Jared Walsh with the bases loaded and two outs in the third inning, a pitch that resulted in a two-run double, Bauer retired 10 in a row to keep the closed game. But the visiting Dodgers only scored one run in support. They put the first runner in fifth, sixth and seventh and finished blank each time. While they still had a run in the ninth, they put two runners on base with one out for Justin Turner, their best hitter this season, and lost anyway.
The Dodgers have lost five straight series for the first time since the final stretch of the 2017 regular season, when they built a massive division lead and looked bored for most of the second half. They have gone 5-15 for the first time since the early part of the 2018 regular season, when they suffered what several players described as the proverbial World Series hangover.
Dodgers utility Chris Taylor said the team is “too talented not to turn around,” a notion demonstrated by a 32 plus run differential, a first in the National League. But the root of their struggle is difficult to identify. The Dodgers haven’t been hitting at capacity, but they haven’t been bad. His starting pitching has dropped a bit, but he’s been a strength nonetheless. His bullpen has been understaffed, but it hasn’t necessarily collapsed.
The Dodgers have been affected primarily by the inability to match his hitting with his pitching on the same day. They’ve also played a lot of weird games, and this week has been a prime example.
The Dodgers lost a doubleheader at Wrigley Field on Tuesday after Clayton Kershaw battled through the first inning of Game 1 and the bullpen blew a late two-run lead in Game 2. The next day, they took the lead in the 10th and 11th. and still they lost. They returned to Southern California, enjoyed a day off, and then prepared to face an Angels team that had lost four games in a row. It felt like the Dodgers could finally blow up again. But on Friday, two of his biggest pitchers (Julio Urías and Joe Kelly) each allowed four-run innings. On Saturday, the Dodgers took a 13-0 lead and nearly blew it all. And on Sunday, they went 11-1 with runners in scoring position.
“You can say it’s early, and you can say there’s no need to panic and you can say all of these things, and they’re all true,” Bauer said. “But at the end of the day, we are not just going to roll bats and balls and win baseball games. We are not just going to sleepwalking to win another division title and go to the World Series again. That doesn’t work.
“You have to go out there and beat someone, every day. And we haven’t been good at it. We have to be better.”
The Dodgers have lost 10 games – a major league leader – in one run. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts wasn’t quite sure how to interpret that, but he adopted an optimistic tone after the game on Sunday. He credited the batting quality late in the series and constantly alluded to how close his team seems to turning a corner.
Still, he admitted that other players share Bauer’s anger.
“There is no complacency.” Roberts said. “The guys are working. That’s who we are. But at the end of the day, it’s a performance game. We’re better than this, and we hope to win considerably more baseball games than we lose. He has every right to be upset. , and he’s not alone in that. “
The Dodgers are not complete, of course. Cody Bellinger, the 2019 National League MVP, has not played since April 5. Two key bench players, Zach McKinstry and Edwin Rios, reside on the disabled list. Dustin May has opted for the season-ending Tommy John surgery. Tony Gonsolin, May’s replacement in fifth place in the rotation, is still on the mend. And three crucial relievers are currently recovering from injuries, a list that includes Corey Knebel, Brusdar Graterol and David Price.
But the Dodgers aren’t far behind in the NL West. They are within two and a half games of the surprising San Francisco Giants and one and a half games of the San Diego Padres, with nearly 80% of the season remaining.
Roberts claims he hasn’t even looked at the rankings. You don’t think you need it.
“We will be at the top of this division,” Roberts said. “I have no doubt in my mind.”