Dodgers: The bullpen woes must be eliminated in October

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Clayton Kershaw (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 12: Clayton Kershaw (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Dodgers invincible aura has fizzled away with the team’s 6-19 record in September. However, a turn of the calendar could be a changing of the tide for Los Angeles.

Dodger fans can best relate to Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. “Wake me up when September ends.” The month of September has been absolutely woeful for the Los Angeles Dodgers. What once was a team ready to break the all-time wins record in the MLB, now is a shell of their former selves and has left a lot of analysts counting them out.

Heck, despite still owning the best record in baseball, the Dodgers don’t even seem to be favorites in the NLDS despite who they face. It has become that bad for the Los Angeles Dodgers, a 6-19 monthly record will do that to you.

The team does still have time to turn the negatives into positives, and they likely will. However, even if Los Angeles does fail to catch some serious fire in the closing chapters of 2017, the second the postseason rolls around, all of these September woes will be forgotten.

After falling victim in 11 straight games, the Los Angeles Dodgers responded with a four-game win streak, taking two of three in Washington D.C. against a tough Nationals team. The same offense that was struggling has scored 35 runs in the last nine games, just shy of four a game. This is already a huge improvement from early September.

However, the Achilles’ Heel in the Dodgers series against the Phillies was late pitching. Los Angeles managed to blow a lead in every single game in that series, even the last game in which they won. Outside of the first ever grand slam hit off Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers bullpen was to blame.

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After Yu Darvish battled for five and one-third frames with no earned runs, Pedro Baez blew a 2-1 lead in the seventh inning. Managing to record just two outs, Baez walked two batters and allowed two hits in route to the Phillies scoring four runs. Los Angeles lost 6-2.

Next was Ross Stripling. After the Dodgers took a 4-2 lead in the seventh inning to set Alex Wood up for the win, Stripling allowed three runs on two home runs and a walk, only recording a single out.

In game four, the Dodgers squandered an early 2-0 lead in the third that resulted in the Phillies taking a 4-2 lead in the fifth. Luckily for LA, the bats woke up and answered with three runs of their own to win, 5-4. Los Angeles lost the series three games to one but easily could have walked out with the brooms in their hands.

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That is the biggest underlying problem for the Los Angeles Dodgers – the gap between the starters and Kenley Jansen. Baez and Stripling have cracked late in the season, leaving Brandon Morrow as the only dominant bullpen arm with Luis Avilan, Josh Fields, Tony Watson and Walker Buehler providing hit or miss performances.

However, October baseball is completely different. Pitchers will be going deeper in games, in turn leaving that gap between the starter and Jansen much smaller.

Not to mention that Kenta Maeda will make a move to the pen, giving the Dodgers another option alongside forming a dominant foursome in Kershaw, Darvish, Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

While the blame has been pinpointed everywhere in the recent turmoil in Los Angeles, the most recent drawback has been the Dodgers bullpen. If the team wants to succeed, well, they may need to call on it less often.

Side note: Don’t you all wish the Dodgers traded for Zach Britton now? For a team that already seemed so perfect, Britton would have been the perfect addition and likely would have extinguished some of these fires.

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October may just serve as a turning of the leaf for Los Angeles, despite all of the doubts in the fans minds. At the end of the day, the best team doesn’t always win the World Series, the hottest team does. Come October, that very well may be the Los Angeles Dodgers.