Dodgers: What’s the Prescription for 2018?

DENVER, CO - JULY 4: Yasiel Puig
DENVER, CO - JULY 4: Yasiel Puig /

It’s no picnic when you’re feeling sick. Maybe your throat burns with every word you speak, or you feel dizzy with every step you take. Perhaps it’s a nasty cough, relentless daggers stabbing at your lungs. You try and rest, you’re certainly fatigued, but your head throbs when you lie down, and you don’t even bother trying to understand why you have no desire to eat one minute and a voracious appetite the next. Go see a doctor? You struggle just getting up to get water from the fridge, so you sit there knowing it will pass, waiting for it to pass, agonizing with every piece of advice you hear from every well-intended source.

It’s no picnic for the Dodgers right now either.

They came oh so close to the championship last year, just one game away from baseball immortality, but instead, they suffered the slow off-season, waiting the long winter for the rebirth of spring. While other teams looked for a fresh start in 2018, the Dodgers were determined to shake off the Game seven loss and stay the course set in 2017; it was a successful formula, a successful team, all they needed was to remain patient.

A two and five start was not what the doctor ordered.

The Dodgers have been shutout three times in the seven games they’ve played this year, and their offense has looked anemic. There have been moments where they seemed lethargic, lulled into a sedated state by the opposing pitchers.

Logan Forsythe made an uncharacteristic three errors at third base while filling in for the injured Justin Turner. Hyun-Jin Ryu gave up five hits and walked five batters in less than four innings of work, and it seems like the whole world went into shock in reaction to Kenley Jansen’s difficulties on the mound, serving up two game-altering home runs in his first two appearances.

Cody Bellinger’s bat, despite an opposite field home run, has continued to ail, and the entire team is batting a sickly .202 to this point. And, despite plating seven runs against the first place Diamondbacks, their eventual defeat in 15 innings was a bitter pill to swallow.

But, let’s pause a moment to take the true temperature of this team, for there have been some promising signs of good health.

In their first win of the year, Matt Kemp drove in his first run of the season with a beautiful inside out swing, driving a pitch to right center. Kyle Farmer, making the start at third base, made a brilliant diving stop on a ball hit off the bat of Evan Longoria followed by a great throw to cut him down at first. And Kenta Maeda turned in five shutout innings striking out 10 Giants on his way to his first victory of the year.

Even with Ryu’s rough outing, the rotation has been remarkable, allowing only nine runs in 40.2 innings pitched, good for a 1.99 ERA to go along with 40 strikeouts. Wilmer Font, one of the last to claim a spot in the bullpen, turned in a gutty performance in the extra inning loss to the Diamondbacks, keeping the Dodgers in the game and holding the Diamondbacks scoreless for four innings before finally faltering.

And then there’s Yasiel Puig.

At first blush, his bat appears to be in a funk as well. Puig has no home runs and only two runs batted in while hitting .179 in seven games so far this year. But the numbers don’t tell the full story. Taking the responsibility of the third spot in the lineup seriously, Puig has been hitting the ball hard. If you’ve had a chance to see any of the games, you may have noticed how the ball practically jumps off his bad as if electrified.

Puig has been equally electric on the base paths. The wild horse famously turned a rundown he was in into a Corey Seager run when he beat Joe Panik to the bag in Sunday’s win against the Giants.

But most impressive for Puig has not been his bat rather it is his defense.

One could argue that Puig was robbed of a gold glove last year, and he seems well on his way to

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putting himself in the conversation once again. In the 14th inning of the game against the Diamondbacks, he made two great plays in a row to give the Dodgers a chance to win. First, he made a catch leaping against the wall on a drive off the bat of perennial MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt, and then he made what could be one of the best defensive plays of the year on the very next batter.

With Ketel Marte on first and one out, A.J. Pollock hit a long fly ball to right. Puig ran to his left, made the catch on the run, and then in one fluid movement, spun and fired to second to double up Marte as he tried to advance. It was a bang-bang play all the way around, and what was most telling about it was Puig’s decision well before making the catch that he was going to turn and fire. He did not stop to see if Marte was tagging up, did not wait to see if anyone would be there to take the throw, he just knew it was the right play to make and he made it instinctively.

Next: The Dodgers Head North Looking to Find Their Groove Offensively

Instinct. Talent. Determination. This is the make up of this team, and this is why despite the struggles, despite the miscues and the early season hiccups, the Dodgers are in for a full recovery and will be making opposing teams feel sick all season.