If you’re like me, every time you come home at night and turn to channel 789 on Spectrum, you feel a little weird inside. And if you don’t have Spectrum, it’s every time you go on Reddit and steal the live stream, you thief. No judgment here. Life as a Dodgers fan is just different in 2018. There were so many expectations placed on the franchise that fell one game short of World Series glory.
And things started off rough in the first place. Justin Turner got plunked VERY late in Spring Training, and his broken wrist kept him out until mid-May. Then Corey Seager went down for the year with Tommy-John surgery on his throwing arm. From there, a seemingly never-ending list of injuries haunted the entire lineup. Hyun-jin Ryu tore his groin so bad that I could feel it from home when I read the Tweet, Tom Koehler never even got to take the field, and relievers seem to hit the DL almost daily even now.
All of this to say that there is a pretty good reason the Dodgers started the year going 12-16 and disappointing everyone. It’s been much more than that though. Kenley Jansen hasn’t been himself all year, even if we want to pretend like he was hitting his spots when healthy. Cody Bellinger was absolutely terrible for most of the first part of the season. Chris Taylor has been reminding us why he has never been a full-time player at the big league level. And Matt Kemp’s age is catching up despite starting off so great.
And now here we are. Fresh off a series sweep by St. Louis in which the Dodgers were outscored 13 to 6. Dodgers fans are livid, and I don’t blame them. There is plenty to be angry about. Los Angeles is now 4.5 games out of first in the NL West and 3.5 out of a Wild Card spot. And yet, there is plenty to be excited about.
The Dodgers asked a lot of the young Bulldog when they called him up earlier this year. The starting rotation had been decimated by injuries and was leaning heavily on Ross Stripling to carry them through it all. Buehler stepped in and pitched to a 2.20 earned run average in his first month. His June and July were a little rough, but he has been dominant as of late. Over his last four starts. Walker has allowed just three earned runs over 25.1 innings of work. He has also struck out 31 while walking just nine. He certainly looks to be the guy that can carry them into October and then some.
I am an avid Kershaw defender. In my eyes, he can do no wrong. But even I started to wonder if it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to let him walk after this season. His velocity and strikeouts were down, and his home runs allowed and walk rates were up. He walked seven guys in the month of April for crying out loud. Of course, we all hold him to the Kershaw standard, so it’s almost comical when you look at his numbers. He has been great in relation to the rest of the league. His season ERA of 2.40 is phenomenal, and yet all we can see is that it’s not Kershaw-esque. His performance since the start of July has changed everything though. In nine starts, he has pitched to a 1.97 earned run average and struck out 52 while walking 8. Not bad from the guy everyone says is washed.
His August has been other-worldly, even for peak Bellinger. He is slashing .371/.444/.529 to go along with three homeruns and 16 runs driven in. He looks to be much more on the ball with his swing and it’s making one heck of a difference. Belly struck out in 34% of his at-bats in June, and that was easily one of his least productive months. He’s cut that down in August, and it’s payng dividends. I’m not sure what he changed in his swing, but I sure hope he keeps it up well into October.
The Remaining Schedule
As mentioned a few days ago, the Dodgers’ schedule remaining is one of the easiest in all of the NL West. Seventeen of their 34 remaining games will be played against teams with records below the 500 mark. Arizona, on the other hand, plays only eight games against teams below that mark. They also have to play the Astros, Cubs, and Braves in that time. All VERY good teams so far in 2018. The Rockies are the real threat, as they play twelve games against teams with poor records. It’s going to be a tight race between Colorado and Los Angeles down the stretch.
Ranking contenders' schedules, from hardest to easiest:
8) Red Sox
Want more detail? It's all here: https://t.co/62SNzVuQmn
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 20, 2018
It’s been a tough year Dodgers fans, I’m right there with you. I’ve been there for the best and worst times of the season. I watched Yasmani Grandal walk it off against the Brewers early this month, but I was also there to watch them drop three of four games in San Francisco back in late Apri. There is a light at the end of this tunnel. And as Vin once said, It’s a great time of the year…if you can stand it.
Hang in there.
[button color=”red” size=”big” alignment=”center” rel=”follow” openin=”samewindow” url=”http://www.dodgersnation.com/dodgers-chronicling-walker-buehlers-16th-start-vs-cardinals-ac0899/2018/08/23/”]Dodgers: Chronicling Walker Buehler’s 16th Start vs. Cardinals[/button]