When your starting line-up has names like Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in it, you would think that opposing pitchers would want to run and hide. But the truth of the matter is, if an opposing team can take a lead into the eighth inning, the Dodgers are toast.
How so, you ask?
The numbers speak for themselves and they are unimaginable. According to Rick Monday (via his radio broadcast during Friday night’s 6-3 loss to the San Diego Padres), the Dodgers are now 0 for 34 when trailing after the seventh inning. This isn’t just bad, this is absolutely unacceptable for a team with any hope of going deep into the postseason, especially from a team with the largest payroll in the game.
Oh sure, we’ve seen the Dodgers pound other teams by five or more runs early in games, but the cold hard truth is that their offense completely shuts down late in games. Now whether this is because they think they have enough runs to win early in these games or because they feel that any lead, however slight, is safe to hand off to their often struggling bullpen is anyone’s guess, but the bottom line is that these lines of thinking are not working.
There is no greater example of this than last Tuesday’s game against the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers when the Dodgers got to former Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander for five runs in the first inning. Not only did the Tiger fight their way back, they ended up crushing the Dodgers by a score of 14-5. It was as if the Dodgers offense simply quit after they scored their five runs in the top of the first inning. It was pathetic. The Tigers put on a clinic against the Dodgers both offensively and defensively. They were everything that the Dodgers were not. They kept scratching and clawing throughout the entire game while the Dodgers basically sat back and watched. It was inexcusable and clearly showed who the better team was – a team that the Dodgers could very well face in the World Series – if they are lucky enough to get there.
It’s easy the say ‘Well, we’re in first place in the NL West.’ So what? Do you really think that teams like the Tigers, or Brewers, or Athletics, or even the Giants care? Why should they when they know that the Dodgers can’t score after the seventh inning? Heck, this is when the really good teams start playing.
The point to all of this is not to bag on the Dodgers, the point is that if the Dodgers hope to make it into the playoffs and hope to go deep into them, they better figure out a way to start scoring runs late in games and better start playing with a sense of urgency until the final out is recorded. If they do not, they will be watching the playoffs on TV instead of playing in them.