After months of relentless dominance, the Dodgers have slowed to a bit of a crawl the past two weeks. A sluggish offense and regressing starting pitching have made for an uninspiring 11-10 during that span. Many have noted the eerie similarity to 2017, when the team went into the harrowing 1-16 slide in September after blowing Rich Hill’s perfect game in Pittsburgh on August 23.
That slide cost them the chance of breaking the all-time single season wins record, which still stings. Likewise, this recent skid has hurt the 2019 squad’s chase for home field advantage in the World Series. Not only could they lose out on that to either the Yankees or Astros, but the sneaky great Atlanta Braves are now close behind them in the win column to boot.
— David O'Brien (@DOBrienATL) September 7, 2019
In the midst of this, though, there may be a silver lining. The Braves’ sudden proximity to Los Angeles for best record in the NL could be a wake-up call to finish strong, and not take home field advantage for the first two rounds for granted. Especially since the Dodgers’ current inconsistency included a weak showing in Atlanta, it’s time more than ever to take them seriously.
It’s also a reminder that being back-to-back pennant winners doesn’t guarantee another trip to the World Series. Take, well, none other than the Atlanta Braves themselves back in the ‘90s. They started that decade with agonizing World Series losses in 1991 and 1992, and seemed poised to get over the hump with 104 wins in 1993. But they were eliminated in the NLCS by the Phillies, and thus had to wait two more years before winning it all in 1995.
Likewise, much as it may feel to the contrary, the Dodgers are not guaranteed to qualify for the 2019 World Series. There’s a reason no team has made a third straight WS since the 2000 New York Yankees, and no NL team has done it since the 1944 St. Louis Cardinals. It’s extremely difficult, and the MLB postseason is the biggest crapshoot in all pro sports playoffs.
And it’s not just the Braves who can give the Dodgers a good scare in October. The Washington Nationals have a pitching rotation that could be especially lethal in a short series, and I don’t think I need to explain just what the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals are capable of dishing out in October.
LA is still poised to clinch a playoff berth before any other MLB team, but coasting into a champagne shower is not what anyone is looking for
This current stretch has been frustrating for fans, with Alex Verdugo’s injury absence taking a turn for the worse and a feeling like the Dodgers are more than a hair behind New York and Houston. But maybe this skid can be a sobering reminder that, great as they are, the Dodgers have no guarantees next month. They must make each moment count.