Recently, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been here before. Indeed – on August 25th of 2017 – they held a 21-game lead in the West division. Suddenly, a team appeared that could not win a game. Those 2017 Dodgers lost 14 of 15 as part of a cruel joke leading into mid-September.
While we all recognize the stark similarities (and dominance) of the 2017 and 2019 versions of this club, perhaps that experience helps any complacency from taking place.
Without question – the Dodgers are taking measures to keep from being complacent – even with a 17 game lead in the division over the Giants and Diamondbacks. Now, George Whicker has a story in the OC Register about Los Angeles staying on point with sharp play through this period.
Whicker: Dodgers staying on point, through the apparent pointlessness https://t.co/PRUsUGJCib
— Mark Whicker (@MWhicker03LANG) August 5, 2019
For example, sometimes there is a game-within-the-game that keeps a team sharp. On Sunday in the ninth inning, the Dodgers were staring down the barrel of a 10-7 deficit against the San Diego Padres. Equally important, they needed to score these runs against elite relievers Andres Munoz and Kirby Yates of San Diego.
Then, Alex Verdugo says the Dodgers smelled blood in the water against Yates after scratching two across against Munoz. Here is what Verdugo was thinking when he saw repeated mound visits between Yates and the Padres coaching staff.
“As a hitter when you see that, you start thinking they’re worried,” Verdugo said. “He (Yates) was taking so much time between pitches, being methodical with it. You think maybe they’re afraid to make a mistake.”
Of course a complacent team – or a team that is less than special – probably just packs up their things and goes home quietly. In this instance, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger were already used; and the Dodgers still would hold a large division lead whether they won or lost on Sunday. However – we all know the final outcome – and the 2019 Dodgers are wired differently.
“Being the best team, having the best record, doesn’t mean anything to us right now,” Verdugo said. “We’re trying to stay locked in until the postseason. We’re trying to play every game like it’s our last. Will it be a problem keeping that edge for two months? I don’t think so. It hasn’t been a problem yet.”
With nothing on the line other than the will to win and sheer guile, the Dodgers pulled out another comeback win with resilient at-bats. Taking them at their word, it doesn’t seem like the players who comprise the roster are taking anything for granted.
It is this instinct in a team that cannot be taught, or learned. For this quality must be inherent; and the 2019 Dodgers uniquely possess it. This is the one quality that gives them unlimited upside before the final chapter of their story is written. A team with this urgency has limitless potential, no matter the situation.