Two weeks ago, the Dodgers were on the path to make history on a positive note. Fast forward to today, and they’re still on the road to make history, just not the right kind.
92-51 with a nine game lead in the division and four games up for home-field throughout the playoffs is not a bad situation to be in……unless you are the 2017 Dodgers.
They were rolling like world beaters, and it seemed like they would never lose again. Even when they were down late, none of the players or fans were fazed because the boys in blue had a habit of comeback wins to the point where, as Joe Davis put it, “It’s not a matter of if but when they come back.” Well so much for those good old days.
On August 25, Los Angeles was 91-36, and in the conversation of whether they could break the 2001 Seattle Mariners record of 116 regular season wins. At that time they had a 21-game lead in the division and were 14.5 games up on the Washington Nationals for the best record in the National League and 13.5 games up on the Houston Astros for the best record in all of baseball.
Playoffs and home-field seemed like a foregone conclusion. For that matter, many were supremely confident of a World Series berth this October, and rightfully so. The team was the deepest in the league, that depth had talent and the team had a bulldog mentality of never being out of a game. And that talent showed on the field, assisted by breakouts and resurgences from the like of Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger, Yasiel Puig and a few others.
After a 10-game losing streak, which is part of a 1-15 stretch, the Dodgers now find themselves just nine games up on a hot Arizona Diamondbacks team and just four games up on the Nationals for the best record in both the NL and MLB. Talk about a collapse.
Now they haven’t collapsed just yet, and hopefully, they don’t. But it is extremely possible, and if they somehow manage to blow this whole thing up, then it would easily go down as the biggest collapse in a pennant race in baseball history.
The most recent last-season meltdowns that come to mind are in 2011 by the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves.
On the morning of September 4, Boston was up nine games up on the Tampa Bay Rays for the AL Wild Card spot. They then proceeded to go 6-18 from thereon, blow a ninth inning 3-2 lead on the last day of the season and miss the playoffs by a game.
The Braves were up 8.5 games on September 6 in the NL Wild Card race over the St. Louis Cardinals and blew that one.
One of the biggest ones (because of when it happened) was in 1964 by the Philadelphia Phillies. With just 12 games to play, they were up 6.5 games for the pennant (back then you won the pennant based on regular season record). They lose ten straight games and see themselves finish tied for second.
Oh, and how can we forget about the Giants from last year? The meltdown started earlier and over a longer stretch, but it was still meltdown.
Those are just some of many epic collapses from teams down the stretch run in baseball history.
The Dodgers’ possible yet impossible collapse-in-the-making is in large part due to its offense, or lack thereof. Over their past 21 games, Los Angeles is just 5-16 and have scored a paltry 59 runs in those games, which comes out to 2.9 runs a game. This has caused the Dodgers’ offense, which was a top-offense unit all season long, to drop out of the top-ten.
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And the pitching has been just as bad, allowing 111 runs, over five per game. One game it’s the starters getting smacked around and the bullpen having to clean up the mess. And the next game it’s the starters keeping it close but the bullpen getting wrecked.
Whatever the case, when the offense, which is filled with MVP and All-Star caliber hitters, doesn’t give you runs to work with, it puts all the pressure on the guys on the mound. Nothing is clicking right now. They have lost the fight in them and seem to have become a little complacent, which is scary.
It would be different if they were losing close games, but they are not. They are getting blown out, so you cannot just expect them to flip a switch and start another great run. Not when the opponents are manhandling the team. There is no reason to believe that there is an end in sight anytime soon with how bad the team as a whole is functioning.
They may be nine games up in the NL West, but these 2017 Dodgers have become unpredictable and prone to breaking records in 2017. First, they start off 9-11. Then they go on a historic 80-24 run no one foresaw. And no one saw a breakout from Cody Bellinger, Brandon Morrow, Chris Taylor and Austin Barnes coming either. Then they lose 15 of 16, and no one saw a slump this bad coming. Combine that with the Rockies and Diamondbacks playing some good ball, and you have a recipe for disaster.
We’ve seen collapses before, just not on a scale this big. But hey, how many teams have had two (almost three) double-digit winning streaks and a double-digit losing streak in one season? You can’t rule anything out at this point. That’s just being realistic. 21 games would make history, just on the wrong side of it.
Oh, how baseball can be cruel. From wondering if they will ever lose again to wondering if they can ever win again. Those are the pains of a 162-game schedule.