It's been said that a baseball season can be divided into thirds. No matter what happens, you are going to win a third of your games, and lose a third, and what you do with the other third will determine your season. The Dodgers may have taken that saying a bit to literal, but despite a horrid stretch, won 104 games, and have baseball's best record headed into the post-season.
Let's take a quick look back. In April, the Dodgers were 14-12. They were a decent looking team and off to battle with teams like Arizona and even San Francisco, with the Colorado Rockies making a little noise. They opened May with a nice little winning streak, and the Dodger Blue faithful were beginning to have visions of a competitive but successful season.
On June 7 (roughly a third of the way in), the Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals at home by a score of 2 to 1. It wasn't known at the time, of course, but it would be the beginning of a run that can only be described as remarkable. After an off day, they swept three straight at home against Cincinnati. After a travel day to Ohio, the Dodgers won two out of three in Cleveland, swept Cincinnati again, this time at their place, came home, won all four against the Mets, three in a row against Colorado, split four games with the Angels, and won a game in San Diego.
And that was just the rest of June. The Dodgers went 20-3 in July, and 13 of their first 16 games in August. It was insane, the Dodgers had won 51 of 60 games (just over a third of a season), and were 91-36. That's 55 more wins than losses, and a winning percentage of .717, and no one wins 60 percent of their games in Major League Baseball, let alone 70 percent. Throw out the 14-12 April, and the Dodgers had a stretch of 83-24. That's a winning percentage of .776 in 107 games. And oh by the way, 108 games is exactly two-thirds of a season. For two thirds of the 2017 year, the Dodgers were as close to perfect as you'll ever see in baseball.
But like a rock star who had been partying a little too much, the Dodgers came crashing down, and they crashed hard. There doesn't seem to be one single reason why, but the Dodgers started losing. They couldn't hit, the starting pitchers weren't lasting very long, and the relievers who had been dominant, weren't anymore. Poor Pedro Baez was even booed by the home fans, who, like everybody else, couldn't understand what was going on.
At 91-36, we were playing the game of “at this pace”. At this pace, the Dodgers would win 116 games. They might win the division by 30 games, and even have the best record in the league by that much. Did it go to their heads? The Dodgers at that point needed to go only 9-26 to win 100. They went 13-22 (.371). Beginning on August 29, they lost 16 of their next 17 games, and their only win was 1-0 at San Diego on September 1. They finally snapped the skid on September 12 in San Francisco, and won four in a row. Then they lost four straight, including being swept by Philadelphia—one of the worst teams in the league. In fact, the month of September is almost a microcosm of their entire season. They had the 1-0 win in San Diego, then lost 11 straight, then won 4, then lost 4, then won 8 of their final 10.
Everything gets reset going into the playoffs. The Dodgers are 0-0. They will face either the Arizona Diamondbacks or Colorado Rockies starting Friday. If they prevail, they'll get either the Washington Nationals or Chicago Cubs. A series win there, and they get to a place they haven't been since 1988—the World Series. One thing is guaranteed. The Dodgers will not have another long losing streak. Playoffs don't allow for them. Lose three or four in a row and you're done. Win six of seven or seven of eight and you're a legend. Win 11 games, and you are a champion. Which Dodger team will show up? We're about to find out.
Late start: It's a little surprising, but Game 1 Friday night at Dodger Stadium between the Dodgers and either the Diamondbacks or Rockies will start at 7:30pm. I would have guessed 6:30 based on previous years, because there are four games that day, and the Dodger game is the only one on the west coast. Since they are playing another western team, I guess the network execs didn't mind (or care) that people back east will be going to bed before the game is over. Friday's quadrupleheader lines up like this: Boston-Houston at 11am (MLB Network), AL Wild Card-Cleveland at 2pm (FS1), Cubs-Nationals at 4:30 (TBS), and the Dodger game at 7:30pm (TBS). Expect the Dodger game to start on TNT unless you think they can fit the Cubs-Nats game in in under three hours. Saturday's Game Two for the Dodgers will be a 6pm start Pacific Time.
West is best: The Yankees and Red Sox have met in the playoffs, and so have the Cubs and Cardinals, but the Dodgers have never battled a division opponent in the postseason before. That is, until now. It wasn't possible before 1994, and couldn't happen in the Division Series before 2012, but the Dodgers will face the winner of the Colorado-Arizona wild card game, guaranteeing a division opponent.
Got them all in: There was a rain delay in Minneapolis before the start of the Twins-Tigers game Sunday, but the game was played. That means for the first time since 2014, all 30 teams played their full 162-game schedule. For three years in a row (2012-14), a full schedule was played, including a tiebreaker game in 2013 between Tampa Bay and Texas, which actually counts as a regular season game, and number 163 for those two teams.
Second Chance Football: So much for surviving. I picked Atlanta to beat Buffalo in my 'Survival Football' pool, so, thanks to the Bills' victory, I'm no longer in the running for a million bucks. For the sake of this column, however, we'll pretend that the Falcons won, and my picks will continue (We'll call it Double Elimination Survival Football. I promise the next time I lose, I'll stop). Having already picked Carolina, New England, Green Bay, and Atlanta in previous weeks, we'll go with Philadelphia to beat Arizona. Go Eagles!
Writing the italics part is becoming more and more difficult. 59 dead in Vegas, over 500 injured, and the loss of Tom Petty—all within the last 24 hours. With apologies to Petty, talk about Running Down a Dream. Yikes.