Dodgers' recent success has been built on sacrifice

LOS ANGELES -- Joc Pederson, who accumulated 10 total bases in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 8-2 surge over the Colorado Rockies on Monday night, has started only 51 percent of the time since the beginning of August. Max Muncy, who essentially put the game away with a 400-foot three-run homer, has been on the bench to start 20 of 55 games since nearly making the All-Star team.

The Dodgers, who hold a half-game lead in the National League West with only 11 remaining, have been built largely on sacrifice.

Five of their eight positions -- all except catcher, third base and shortstop -- feature some semblance of a timeshare, and two of their most accomplished starting pitchers are currently occupying nondescript bullpen roles.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has been tasked with the grueling sales job.

"A lot of conversations," Roberts said of what it entails, "and selling them on giving us the best chance to win a championship. And understanding that, and appreciating that, although you're not starting, you have a chance to impact our game that particular night. Which if you look at the way we've managed things, it's really played out that way. There's a lot of guys, in games that we've won, that haven't started and have made an impact, whether it be defensively or taking an at-bat. When you kind of see it play out like that, it validates it."

The Dodgers' enviable position-player depth has pushed a franchise icon (Matt Kemp), a World Series hero (David Freese) and a future Hall of Famer (Chase Utley) into part-time roles. The same can be said for one of the game's best first-half hitters (Muncy) and, in some ways, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year (Cody Bellinger). Brian Dozier, a stalwart at second base for the past half decade, and Pederson, a budding young player with all the tools, have not been exempt either.

On the pitching side, the mix-and-match has been even more noticeable. Alex Wood, who fashioned a 3.65 ERA and hadn't missed a start, recently was sent to a bullpen that already included Kenta Maeda, a solid starting pitcher with incentives in his contract that hinge on innings pitched. Replacing Wood in the rotation was Ross Stripling, who was sent to the bullpen shortly after making the All-Star team as a starter.

Roberts met with the entire team earlier this season and told his players that he basically had two options: He could utilize basically the same lineup each day, or he could try to capitalize on matchup advantages, maximize his depth and keep more players involved.

The choice was easy.

"Everyone wants to play every day," Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said, "but there's 17, 18 really, really good baseball players in here. And the truth is that not everyone can play every day. It's hard to speak to how everyone feels, but I think for the most part, guys have been doing a good job."

Roberts has used 146 lineup combinations this season and is now attempting to use the depth in his rotation to help fortify the back end of his bullpen, easily the club's greatest deficiency.

Wood, a lefty, and Maeda, a righty, could serve as setup options for closer Kenley Jansen. But so can the likes of Dylan Floro, Scott Alexander, Ryan Madson, Caleb Ferguson and, perhaps, Julio Urias, the 22-year-old prodigy who looked good in his first major league appearance since shoulder surgery.

Roberts said there is "some wiggle room" when it comes to the evolution of the setup role in his bullpen, as has been the case all year. The matchups, the peripherals and the body of work were the dominating factors for most of the season, but there is an intentional recency bias at this juncture.

"Guys that we talked about are going to get opportunities if it makes sense," Roberts said. "But it's about right now -- we have to get results. For me to see what guys have done here recently, that's at the forefront of my mind."

It's why Yasiel Puig, who was just named NL Player of the Week, is basically an everyday player at the moment. And why Pederson and Muncy, batting a combined .372 over the past seven days, look like fixtures once again.

But it's all fleeting.

Roberts can spell Muncy with Freese against lefties at first base. He can use Kemp to replace Pederson against lefties in left field and use Alex Verdugo, the organization's top prospect, to replace Puig against a right-hander in right field. Bellinger is an option at either first base or center field, while Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez can fill in practically anywhere. If Dozier -- a .189/.302/.346 hitter since coming over -- continues to struggle, even the 39-year-old Utley can make spot starts if the matchups favor it.

It's the type of depth that could make the Dodgers a nightmare opponent in the postseason, if they make it.

"Down the stretch here, especially in September, the depth that we have I think is an advantage for us," Turner said. "Guys kind of understand that. We know what we're playing for, we know what we want to do, and guys are buying in. Everybody in here wants to win."