For most teams, a 4-2 week is a successful week. For the Los Angeles Dodgers, a 4-2 week actually lowered their season winning percentage.
As the Dodgers pursue the single-season record of 116 wins, let's review their week:
Record since June 7: 48-9 Season: 83-34 (.709 winning percentage)
Record needed to get to 117 wins: 34-11 (.756 winning percentage)
A short week with two off days against two bad clubs? This is the kind of week the Dodgers need to take advantage of if they want to make a serious run at the wins record. Alex Wood and Yu Darvish will start the two games against the White Sox, both on five days' rest, so they should be primed for strong outings against a young Chicago lineup.
I've been watching a lot of the Dodgers lately, and no inning summed up why this team has been so good this season better than the sixth on Saturday night against the San Diego Padres. San Diego was up 3-1 when Craig Stammen entered in relief with runners on second and third with no outs. He just wanted to limit the damage. Yasiel Puig had a terrific at-bat, fighting off a couple of tough, two-strike pitches to remain alive in the count before finally taking a 3-2 fastball just off the plate for ball four. Stammen then got Austin Barnes to fly out to shallow right field and struck out Chris Taylor and had a chance to escape with no damage.
All he had to do was get through Corey Seager, who lined a base hit to right on a 3-2 fastball:
I love that Puig had the patience and willingness to work a walk. I love that Seager didn't swing from his heels and strike out, showing why he's hitting .360 with runners in scoring position. And I love that they got a little lucky there, with Seager getting caught in the rundown, then Puig breaking for home and beating a bad throw. Smart, good and lucky. That's how you play .700 ball.
Darvish goes 2-0 with the Dodgers, but about that bullpen Darvish's second start with the Dodgers came against the Arizona Diamondbacks, and while he wasn't as efficient as in his debut against the New York Mets, he still finished with 10 strikeouts in five innings. He fanned Paul Goldschmidt all three times he faced him and pumped his fist after getting Goldschmidt looking to end the fifth. That was a great inning, as Darvish fanned A.J. Pollock and Jake Lamb on curveballs, then froze Goldschmidt with a slider.
This is apparently Yu Darvish when he's not sharp pic.twitter.com/addeD9WYnM— Daniel Brim (@DanielBrim) August 11, 2017
Darvish allowed two runs in what would end up an 8-6 victory for the Dodgers -- and that points to the bullpen, the one problem area in the week. Not Kenley Jansen; he pitched four scoreless innings in recording four saves. But the pen gave up four runs in that game and was charged with the two losses in blowing games the Dodgers led. Manager Dave Roberts is still trying to figure out the roles for everyone ahead of Jansen and whether he can trust Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani, the two lefties acquired at the trade deadline.
Watson picked up the loss on Tuesday when he allowed three runs and gave up a home run and two walks in two-thirds of an inning. Watson did pitch a 1-2-3 inning on Saturday, but given his struggles with the Pittsburgh Pirates before coming over to the Dodgers, he has a way to go before earning key outs once the Dodgers get to the postseason.
The guy who has forced himself into a key role is veteran Brandon Morrow, who has now appeared in 27 games and pitched 26⅔ innings with 33 strikeouts, six walks, no home runs and a .173 average against. He hit 99 mph on Saturday. The sample size is obviously small, but lefties are hitting just .079 against him. Goes to show you never know where relievers will pop up from. The oft-injured Morrow was 0-5 with a 7.20 ERA for Triple-A Oklahoma City before getting called up.
Right now, Roberts' best setup options are still going to be Pedro Baez and Morrow against both sides, Josh Fields against righties and Luis Avilan against lefties. Roberts seems to get this, as Baez has entered in different innings, based on the matchups and lineup order (Roberts likes to use him against the other team's best hitters). Sure, another lefty down there would be nice, but right now, Watson and Cingrani would remain low on the pecking order.
Clayton Kershaw update: Kershaw threw bullpen sessions on Friday and Sunday and is expected to throw a two-inning simulation game on Tuesday. It all points to the Dodgers' hoping to get Kershaw back in the rotation for September, similar to last year when he returned on Sept. 9 and made five starts before the postseason.
Seager for MVP? With Bryce Harper going down for an extended period -- he was probably the MVP favorite -- Seager's chances would seem to improve. Below are WAR leaders for National League position players entering Sunday.
According to Baseball-Reference:
Paul Goldschmidt: 5.6
Joey Votto: 5.4
Nolan Arenado: 5.1
Corey Seager: 4.9
Anthony Rendon: 4.9
Giancarlo Stanton: 4.9
Bryce Harper: 4.6
According to FanGraphs:
Justin Turner: 4.7