DENVER -- In two weeks, nobody is going to remember this rough little patch of games. At least, that’s what the Los Angeles Dodgers are hoping, because if people do think back to this slow-motion stumble toward the tape, they’ll be doing so for all the wrong reasons.
The Dodgers got a bad start from Brett Anderson that was equal parts lousy luck and poor location, and the Colorado Rockies' two most dangerous hitters punished the Dodgers in an 8-6 loss Saturday at Coors Field. Carlos Gonzalez sent a Yimi Garcia fastball over the center-field wall, not far from where Nolan Arenado's first-inning grand slam off Anderson sailed into the trees, to win it in the ninth inning.
Giving up home runs to those guys isn’t exactly a novel form of pain. They have combined for 79 home runs this season.
For at least one more day, the champagne stayed well out of sight, crated in some closet waiting for the Dodgers to emerge from this mini-funk or get a bit more help from the Oakland A’s. Just two victories away from their third division title in a row, the Dodgers have lost six of their past eight games.
The fear is that this late loss of momentum will affect the Dodgers' World Series viability, but nobody seems to understand the mysteries of the postseason enough to say that with any confidence. All the same, it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to stop losing games.
The Dodgers could still clinch as soon as Sunday, if they can avoid a sweep and the San Francisco Giants lose in Oakland. Barring that, they’ll have to win one in San Francisco, where they have lost all six of their games this season, or take their chances in those final three against the San Diego Padres. None of the Dodgers want to get to that point.
“Nobody’s in panic mode or getting impatient,” Anderson said. “We just have to go out there and play better. I’d like to clinch as soon as possible, but it is what it is.”
There certainly have been cases of teams getting hot in late September and carrying that deep into October. But it doesn’t look like the Dodgers will be one of those momentum-riding teams, though they still have eight games left. At this point, they’re banking on everything resetting between now and Game 1 of the NLDS.
“My experience the two years I was watching, in ’08 and ’09, and then the last two years, [was] you’re going to show up, the adrenaline’s going to be there, and you’re going to be right where you need to be,” catcher A.J. Ellis said. “If you can’t get up to play playoff games, you need to check your blood pressure.”
The Dodgers' first-round opponent -- barring an epic collapse -- will be the New York Mets, who clinched the NL East Saturday and celebrated raucously in Cincinnati. The Mets (88-67) jumped in front of the Dodgers (87-67) in the race for home-field advantage, but their edge is a bit wider than that. Because they beat the Dodgers head-to-head, four games to three, their lead is more like 1½ games than a half-game.
The Dodgers know it would be a good idea to win a game soon.
“At this point, it’s tough to win games down the stretch. It’s tough to close things out,” manager Don Mattingly said. “It’s a matter of just going forward. I don’t concern myself with seven games back and, to be honest with you, this one’s going to go away too. We’ve got to be ready to play tomorrow.”
Most of the Dodgers saw bits and pieces of the Giants’ 14-10 win over the A’s before their game, but more seemed to be watching college football or relaxing in ways entirely unrelated to a pennant race. Unless things go very well for them Sunday, the Dodgers won’t need a scoreboard to know when they’ve locked things up over the next four days.
“I think we’re all confident it’s going to happen," Ellis said. "It’s just a matter of making that final push and sprinting across the line."