All season long the one thing the 2018 Dodgers were missing was the ability to come from behind to win games. After a season of comeback wins last year, the 2018 Dodgers have succeeded when getting ahead early in games.
Throughout the 2017 season, it seemed as if the Dodgers were never out of a game. Down four or five runs in the ninth inning? Not a problem for the 2017 Dodgers. You might remember Joe Davis’s call last season “Moment after moment, memory after memory, the Dodgers have done it again”.
The 2018 Dodgers had been polar opposites of the 2017 Dodgers up until the last three games against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 2018 Dodgers have been missing the “clutch gene”. With runners in scoring position, the Dodgers rank 25th in MLB with a .244 batting average. The only teams ranked worse are non-contenders like the Padres, Royals, and Orioles.
Even with runners on base in general, the 2018 Dodgers do not seem to like hitting with runners on base. With runners on base, the Dodgers rank even worse at 27th in MLB with a .245 average. It seems like every time the Dodgers do hit a home run there is nobody on base and the stats prove that’s correct.
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The only Dodger hitters who have been clutch with runners in scoring position are the two hitters who may have saved the Dodgers season; Justin Turner and Matt Kemp. Among those Dodgers with more than a handful of at-bats, Matt Kemp leads the Dodgers with a .356 batting average with runners in scoring position.
Justin Turner ranks second on the team with a .315 batting average with runners in scoring position. The only other qualifying Dodger with a batting average over .260 with RISP is Manny Machado who has a .297 batting average. The Dodgers have had a problem hitting in the clutch but perhaps this past weekend put those struggles to bed.
Justin Turner started the flip from unclutch to clutch when his solo home run off Zack Greinke gave the Dodgers the only lead they would need to Kenley Jansen to shut the door. On Saturday and Sunday, it was deja vu as Matt Kemp broke out of his second-half struggles to homer off Archie Bradley twice to give the Dodgers two critical wins.
The 2018 Dodgers still have a month to go to define themselves but its starting to feel like they are that veteran team who gets the job done when it matters most. In the heat of the pennant race, in one of the biggest series of the season, the Dodgers flipped the switch from unclutch to clutch. Should the Dodgers end up winning a sixth straight division title, it will be easy to look back at Labor day weekend and point it out as the weekend the Dodgers turned their season around.