The Dodgers clinched a playoff spot 12 days ago. 8 days and 7 games remain in September. It’s safe to assume that not every single player is playing each game with maximum intensity as LA plays out the string. While home field advantage remains on the line — for both National League pennant games and home field advantage throughout the playoffs — it seems that the club has not emphasized a focus on best overall record.
This point was discussed on the latest episode of our Blue Heaven Podcast with Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register.
Friedman and Roberts might not care as much about home field advantage because they've had it "both ways."
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) September 20, 2019
Veteran catcher Russell Martin also shared some thoughts with Bill on the subject.
We’ve done some things differently. We’ve saved some pitch counts. We’ve had some bullpen days. We’ve had some guys go in some situations just to prepare for the postseason, making sure guys have been in situations coming out of the pen and stuff like that. So we have done things differently. — via Plunkett, OC Register.
“Differently” feels like an understatement. The bullpen games have felt frustrating. The situational pitching changes have seemed forced. You can do everything you want to attempt to prepare for potential October situations, but if the intensity isn’t there, the point may be moot.
You can’t fake that we have clinched and these games probably aren’t as important as, say, a St. Louis-Cubs game today. There isn’t that same feel. But you still play to win and everyone in here wants to win every single time we go out there.
7 more different games remain for the Dodgers. Playing out the string against the Padres and Giants likely wont wield needed intensity for the club. However, there are things to be learned.
The status of Rich Hill will be tested on Tuesday in San Diego. Richie wants to prove he belongs with the squad in October and will likely get two attempts to make it happen. Moreover, rookie pitchers Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin will learn (and earn) their respective October fates this coming week. And it will likely come at the expense of the fans surviving flat-feeling bullpen games.