LOS ANGELES (AP) — A few weeks ago, everybody was wondering if the Dodgers could break the major league record of 116 wins in a season.
Now they’re looking vulnerable with the playoffs approaching.
Los Angeles had lost six in a row and 11 of 12 — its worst skid of the season — going into Thursday night’s series opener against Colorado. Once again, the Dodgers turn to ace Clayton Kershaw to stem the tide. He ended their five-game skid last week at San Diego in his first start off the disabled list.
The Dodgers remain baseball’s best team at 92-47 and lead the NL West by 10 ½ games over the streaking Arizona Diamondbacks, a seemingly comfortable margin with three weeks left in the regular season. But their lead was 21 games on Aug. 25, and as the Dodgers have stumbled, the D-backs have surged.
Arizona left Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night having won its franchise-record 13th in a row, sweeping Los Angeles in two three-game series over the last week.
“You get hit in the mouth, you got to fight back,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “There’s a lot of fight left in our guys.”
There just hasn’t been much offense and the bullpen has been hit hard.
The Dodgers were outscored 19-2 and had 30 strikeouts this week against the D-backs, who could potentially give them fits if they meet again in the playoffs.
“If we get them, we know we’re the better team,” catcher Yasmani Grandal said. “There’s no doubt they play hard, but so do we. I’m glad someone is trying to challenge us, especially in our own division.”
After a poor 1 1/2-month stretch to start the second half, Arizona hasn’t lost since Aug. 24. The Diamondbacks earned their fourth straight series sweep and have won seven in a row on the road, both franchise firsts. Until the Dodgers took a 1-0 lead on Wednesday, Arizona had gone 97 consecutive innings without trailing, the second-longest streak in major league history.
Manager Torey Lovullo knows the D-backs’ recent success against the Dodgers isn’t a guarantee in October.
“That’s a long way from right now,” he said. “The rosters are going to look totally different, things are going to look totally different. We’ve got to get into the playoffs and that’s all I’m focused on.”
Led by the low-key Roberts, the Dodgers are sticking to their script: stay the course, prepare and play the same way, and the wins will come again.
“For me to get upset at a result makes no sense,” Roberts said. “Adversity, if you learn from things, then it can be a good thing if you don’t let it dominate your thoughts or get you down too much.”
The mounting frustration got to third baseman Justin Turner, who was ejected from the dugout for arguing balls and strikes on Wednesday.
“The fans probably don’t want to hear it, stay with the process and keep going about it, but it’s the truth,” he said. “The pendulum is going to swing back into our favor.”
Still, there are plenty of questions swirling around the Dodgers as they pursue their first World Series appearance since 1988.
Adrian Gonzalez is still bothered by a herniated disk in his lower back that might keep him off the playoff roster. The veteran first baseman has hit .184 since returning from the DL on Aug. 18.
New acquisitions Yu Darvish and Curtis Granderson are struggling.
Darvish tossed seven scoreless innings in his Aug. 4 debut against the Mets, but his ERA has ballooned to 6.16 in four subsequent starts. Granderson is hitting .105 and hasn’t homered in two weeks.
NL Rookie of the Year candidate Cody Bellinger is batting .172 since coming off the DL after a sprained ankle.
On the plus side, All-Star shortstop Corey Seager is expected back in the lineup Friday after pinch-hitting the last couple weeks because of a sore right elbow. He’s hitting .310, utility man Chris Taylor is batting .302 and Turner leads the team with a .327 average.
“We’re in a hole and we have to figure out a way to dig ourselves out,” Taylor said. “The last thing we want to do is feel sorry for ourselves.”
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