Three big games in Colorado in late August start tonight. And that's just what the Dodgers need.
Back on June 3, the Dodgers were 15.5 games ahead of Colorado. However, since the All Star game the Dodgers are a pedestrian 18-19, while the Rockies have been red hot. The result is the Dodgers with a three game division lead heading into a three game series in the thin air of Denver.
It may not feel like it, but this is a good thing.
To see why, turn back the clock a year and look down to Orange County. You’d see an Angels team that, like the Dodgers in June, had built up a seemingly insurmountable lead. The difference is that the Angels continued to play fairly well, and nobody in their division made a run at them. The Angels coasted to 21-game division win.
Then they coasted into the playoffs and were ousted in the first round by the Boston Red Sox three games to one.
Coasting can lead to a flat team not ready to rise to a challenge -- and a couple months back that looked like the Dodgers. But their mediocre play has closed their lead and forced them to focus.
Now they have to be sharp. That will carry over into the playoffs (which the Dodgers almost certainly will still make).
What needs to get sharp is the Dodgers offense -- everyone is talking about the Dodgers pitching, but it has been fine. Through the month of August, the Dodgers have a 3.23 team ERA, second best in baseball. While there have been off outings and blown saves, for the most part if you are giving up 3.23 runs a game, you should be winning more than you are losing.
Unless your bats have gone quiet. That’s what happened to the Dodgers. In the last 30 days, they are hitting a middle-of-the-road .274 as a team, but they are doing that with no power -- they have 20 home runs in the last 30 days, second worst in all of baseball. They are averaging 4.1 runs per game, more than half a run below their 4.7 average for the season and well below the 5 runs a game they were scoring back in June.
The thin air of Colorado might be just the thing to wake up the Dodgers bats -- and when they do start hitting that can carry over to the playoffs. Playoffs they will be mentally ready for.