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    Alexander: Dodgers are rolling again, but it’s all about October
    • June 12, 2024

    LOS ANGELES — Last weekend’s series at Yankee Stadium featured a playoff atmosphere, and the Dodgers responded with playoff intensity and won two out of three from the team with baseball’s best record.

    And I’m sure, Dodger fans, that plenty of you watched that series and asked yourselves, “Where was that the last couple of Octobers?”

    That is the irritant among the fan base, and that discomfort will remain until it’s eradicated by a full-season championship. And so Manager Dave Roberts was asked Tuesday if those type of performances – and, not incidentally, that type of mental edge – could be sustainable beyond one weekend in the Bronx.

    “You know, I think you can,” Roberts said. “But it’s just not going to show every night. Baseball is so difficult and so up and down. So the hope is that you can. But looking at however many more games we have, there’s going to be some duds in there. And that’s just inevitable for any ballclub.”

    The trick is to keep the duds to a minimum. Even so, I’m not sure that’s the answer the public wants to hear, as truthful and logical as it is. Baseball people understand that it’s a long season, and the object is to handle the grind, put themselves in position for the postseason and reach a crescendo when they get there.

    The fan, more often than not, lives day to day. Slumps such as the couple the Dodgers have already faced this year – seven losses in nine games in April, when they averaged just under four runs per game, and a five-game losing streak in late May when they scored 2.2 runs per game – lead to near-panic among those who care, along with shouts of “Do something!”

    It’s a baseball truism. When a team isn’t hitting, it looks like it lacks energy.

    “I know, it’s like kind of cliché, but it’s ebbs and flows of the season,” first baseman Freddie Freeman said Tuesday night after the Dodgers had pummeled the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers, 15-2, hitting four homers and scoring seven times in the sixth inning.

    “We’re going to go through stretches where you just don’t get the hits when you need to. And, the last few weeks we’ve been getting the hits. I’m sure you might ask us (about generating runs) here in a month again. You know, that’s just kind of how it goes throughout the course of the year. But in Pittsburgh (mid-week last week), you could see … just better at-bats, quality at-bats. And for about 10 to 12 days now we’ve been putting together good at-bats, and it kind of carries over to hits.”

    It’s possible to limit those dry spells, Roberts said, “by just competing.” He pointed to Gavin Lux, who came into Tuesday night’s game hitting .216 with a .560 OPS but had two hits, a grounder off the first base bag in the fourth after fouling off three two-strike pitches, and an RBI single in the fifth.

    “I thought he competed tonight and he got results,” Roberts said. “But there’s some at-bats, I just don’t see our guys competing the way they’re capable of doing. You’re not going to have your ‘A’ swing every night. But you should have compete. And I saw that tonight. And I’ve seen that the last four or five games.”

    And so we go back to the last two Octobers. In 2022 San Diego upended the 111-win Dodgers in four games in a National League Division Series. Last year, the Dodgers won 100 games in the regular season and were swept by Arizona, scoring six runs in three games.

    (Again: When you have trouble scoring, you look anemic, period.)

    You think the rest of baseball doesn’t love it? Consider the reaction of one anonymous player to a survey by The Athletic, on the question of whether the Dodgers’ offseason spending spree was good or bad for the sport.

    “That’s what makes baseball beautiful. Those guys spend $1 billion and will still get swept in the first round.”


    While today’s Dodgers are again comfortably ahead in the NL West, with a 7½-game lead going into Wednesday’s play, they’re also a flawed team, benefiting from a mediocre division and, to be honest, a National League with only five teams over .500.

    The Dodgers’ batting order is top-heavy, the six through nine slots have often been unproductive this season, and Chris Taylor (.102 batting average) and Kiké Hernandez (.207) have been drags on the lineup.

    The Mookie Betts shortstop experiment has had its shaky moments, and Freeman saved Betts from another throwing error Tuesday night on Adolis Garcia’s first-inning grounder. Max Muncy’s oblique injury has removed a potent bat, which has had an effect on the bottom of the lineup, and there remains no timetable as to his return.

    So for a team with a $308 million Opening Day payroll, they’ve got quite the shopping list leading up to the July 30 trade deadline. Among the targets: Another bat to shore up the bottom of the lineup, one or more bullpen arms and maybe another starting pitcher, and quite possibly a shortstop to allow Betts to at least move to second.

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    Having players who are impervious to postseason pressure, or at least able to rise above it, always helps. The presence of Corey Seager in the ballpark this week is a reminder. Seager won a World Series MVP trophy with the Dodgers in 2020, and he won another one with the Rangers last October. Letting him walk after the 2021 season, as it turns out, was a huge mistake.

    Seager was asked in a pre-game media session if he thought there was such a thing as an “October player,” and he wouldn’t take that bait. “I don’t have a good answer for you on that one,” he said. “Sorry.”

    But he suggested his formative years as a player in the Dodger organization helped prepare him to excel in key moments.

    “They taught me everything I knew,” he said. “You know, how to win, how to do things the right way. It’s a first-class organization, you know, and (I) tried to bring that to another first-class organization. It’s all those little things that you’ve learned through the years … you know, you’re trying to do less harm than good.”

    There are plenty of others in the Dodgers’ clubhouse who are capable of magical October moments. But until they actually perform them, the faithful will remain restless.

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    ​ Orange County Register