Dodgers' late-season lull starting to look familiar

LOS ANGELES -- At right around this point two years ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers found themselves drifting along through the schedule, losing games they probably shouldn't have and drawing out their clinching party longer than absolutely necessary. So, when they got to Arizona for a three-game series with the Diamondbacks in September of 2013, manager Don Mattingly called a team meeting.

Two days later, the Dodgers clinched and celebrated by jumping in the Diamondbacks' pool, much to the outrage of various Arizonans.

Now that it's a near-certainty the Dodgers will be clinching on the road again in 2015, will they splash around in the Colorado Rockies' waterfall or party on the San Francisco Giants' giant glove? At this point, they'd just like to get on with it, wherever the celebration occurs.

The very message Mattingly delivered back in 2013 probably had a lot of the same vocabulary as his comments after the Dodgers lost 8-4 to the Diamondbacks Monday night, again suspending their seemingly inevitable clinching party. The Dodgers, whose magic number to nail down the National League West is still seven, lost their third straight home game Monday, looking like a team without much urgency.

"I think that's what happens is guys start looking ahead when you've got to win a game, get ready to play and win a game," Mattingly said before adding he thinks this team has enough veteran leadership to avoid any late-season wobbliness.

"You don't feel like you're going to get a panic going on, and we've all seen enough baseball to know it doesn't do you any good to look ahead," Mattingly said.

There is that old baseball saw about momentum only being as good as the next day's starting pitcher, and Brett Anderson just wasn't very good Monday night. The Dodgers, mindful of his injury history and the fact he is inching up on his career high for innings, have been working hard to get him extra rest. Anderson's past three starts have come after extra rest, one of them after eight days off.

That's all well and good, except like a lot of sinkerball pitchers, extra rest is the last thing he wants.

"I'm a routine-based, rhythm-based pitcher and it's tough," Anderson said. "Obviously, they're trying to give me extra rest just because I'm in uncharted territory in innings and starts and stuff, but I'd like to get on a semi-normal routine. The last time I was pitching best was in the middle of the first half when every four or five days, I knew what I was going to be doing."

A lot of these problems will take care of themselves. Anderson, who is ticketed as the Dodgers' No. 3 starter in the playoffs -- presuming they don't have some kind of spectacular collapse -- and without any off days between now and the end of the season, will be pitching on four days' rest for his final two starts.

The Dodgers are going to have to pay up if Anderson keeps going strong, but they haven't exactly proven cheap often the past few years. Anderson, near the end of his healthiest season since he was a rookie, already has earned $1.3 million in performance incentives for pitching more than 165 innings. If he gets to 180, he'll get another $1.45 million.

Of course, because of all the off days going into the playoffs these days, Anderson figures to be pitching on 10 days' rest when his spot comes up for his first postseason start.

They can deal with that problem as it gets closer. As Mattingly seems to be intent on pointing out to anyone who will listen, right now they just have to find a way to win one game, then do it again the next day.