Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Is It Possible that the Dodgers Are Finally Hitting Their Stride in September?

Some Dodger teams in the past five years during their division title streak have had a tendency to get hot in unprecedented fashion.  This is something that has avoided the 2018 ball club.  But maybe, just maybe, they are now starting that historic win steak.  This time at the perfect time of year.

Few will forget 40 wins out of 50 games in the months of June and July in 2014.  And then there was last season's summer run where the Dodgers went 55-11 between June 7th and August 25th.  Both were unforgettable hot streaks and at record levels.  Most would agree that both those teams peaked too soon.  Could you imagine if one of those team had that incredible run in September/October?  I may be going out on a limb with this observation, but perhaps we are about to see it now.

2018 has been frustrating for those if us used to watching the blue have a torrid hot streak the past few years.  Just when things have seemed to get on track this year, they get swept by the likes of the Cardinals at home.  With a crucial road trip in September, they started fine with two wins out of three in Colorado, only to drop two in a row in Cincinnati to the last place Reds.  Things looked pretty bleak on Wednesday of this week.  By tonight, (Saturday), all those bleak predictions are out the window.
Yasiel Puig hits his third homer of the day (photo by Bill Boyce/Associated Press)

Suddenly, when the team really needs a hot streak, they are on it.  It is make or break time.  A failure here means no October baseball.  After the last four games, none of us can imagine an October without Dodger baseball.  These guys are clicking on all cylinders.

How so?  Look at these numbers in the last four games:

39 runs scored,  including a .348 Batting average with runners in scoring position (15 for 43).  This is quite the turnaround.  Small sample size?  Sure, it's only four games, but a trend is developing.  Hitting in the clutch is something that has been lacking all year.  Perhaps it is their time now.  Look at some of the offensive production over those four games:

Puig   15 AB, 7 R, 9 H, 9 RBI, 5 HR
Turner 14 AB, 4 R, 7 H, 4 RBI, 2 2B, 1 Sac Fly, 3 BB
Machado 17 AB, 3 R, 4 H, 5 RBI, 2 HR, 1 2B, 1 Sac Fly
Bellinger 14 AB, 4 R, 4 H, 6 RBI, 1 HR 
Grandal 12 AB, 1 R, 4 H, 3 RBI
Pederson 14 AB, 3 R, 5 H, 1 RBI, 1 HR
Hernandez 10 AB, 2 R, 3 H, 2 BB
Muncy 6 AB, 4 R, 2 H, 1 RBI, 8 BB

What shouldn't be overlooked  are the 8 innings of shutout-2 hit ball that Walker Beuhler pitched on Friday night.  

There was one event over the past four games that stands out to me, and I'm hoping it will be talked about in the future as the "catalyst" that launched the Dodger championship season.  I'm talking about the "At Bat of At Bats" by David Freese.

On Thursday night, with the Dodgers facing a dominating Cardinals club that completely manhandled them in a 3-game sweep at Dodger Stadium in late August, former Cardinal David Freese came to the plate in the first inning with Turner and Machado in scoring position.  

This is the typical situation we have seen all year where a Dodger would fail to deliver, stranding runners on base.  Not this time.

In a 14 pitch at bat, reminiscent of Alex Cora's 18-pitch masterpiece against Matt Clement back in 2004,  Freese laced a triple down the left field line to start the Dodger offensive onslaught this weekend.  Cardinal starter Austin Gomber was ineffective after raising his pitch count to over 30 in an effort to get the first three outs of the night.  

Perhaps I'm wrong, but the David Freese at bat may turn out to be the catalyst to lift the Dodgers season.  Meanwhile, let's sit back and enjoy some pennant race baseball.  There are 13 games to go, and if the Dodgers are hitting their hot streak stride right now, October baseball should be mighty fun to watch.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Dodgers Hold Serve with Win Vs. Cardinals, Still 1 1/2 Back in Division

On August 22nd of this confusing, inconsistent and tumultuous Dodger season I made a mental note that the Dodgers would need to win 24 of their remaining 34 games to qualify for post-season play. 

At the time, it seemed like a daunting task.  The club was coming off being swept at home by what appeared to be a superior St. Louis Cardinals team.  Kenley Jansen was getting smacked around, obviously not himself.  The offense wasn't hitting with men in scoring position and the team was a mere six games over .500 at 67-61, 4 1/2 behind first place Arizona.  They had a day off to think about things, regroup and start over against a couple of last place opponents, (San Diego and Texas). 

So now, 19 games later, the Dodgers have played at a 13-6 clip, still behind in the division standings, but certainly in the running for a playoff spot.  They continue to frustrate us losing to cellar dwellar Cincinnati in 6 of 7 on the year, but taking a series on the road from first place Colorado, in a respectable performance over the past weekend.  This is a Jeckyll and Hyde team that is impossible to predict.  My confidence in them taking the National League Pennant again isn't high, yet then there are signs every once in a while that the magic has returned, only to see the team to fall back into bad habits.

Let's take last night's 9-7 win at St. Louis for instance.

Kershaw started striking out 6 of his first 7 outs recorded, but a homer surrendered to relief pitcher Tyson Ross opened the flood gates.  He gave up 4 runs over six innings in earning his 5th straight win.  (Associated Press photo)

The team looked fantastic.  Kershaw was dominant in early innings.  Striking out Cardinals at a clip we hadn't seen all year.  The offense clicking, hitting with runners in scoring position, at one point 5 for 7 with men in scoring position.  Even hitting back to back sacrifice flys, a rare occasion this year.  Up 8-1 in the 5th, this game was in the bag, right?  Not this year.

Kershaw started getting hit.  The defense sloppy.  The base-running, stupid, (what were you thinking Barnes?). Relievers struggling.  Offense stranding runners again.  Kenley Jansen - lost.  By the ninth, this laugher has turned into potential tragedy. 

A win in game one at St. Louis should have raised confidence, but the way it ended put a damper on that.  Last night's game was 2018 in a nutshell.  It should have been an easy win.  Instead it was a roller coaster ride.

They go at it again tonight with Walker Beuhler.  Another "must" win.  With a victory, the Dodgers ensure themselves of at worst a .500 season with their 81st win.  I continue to believe that 91 wins takes the division.  That'll require an 11-4 close out to the season.  Again, not impossible, but a formidable task.  Do the Dodgers have it in them?  Again, the 2018 team raises doubts.