Dave Roberts: ‘Competitive Mindset’ Provides More Motivation For Dodgers Than Chase For Home-Field Advantage In World Series

With an 18-game lead in the National League West and jockeying for the best record in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers already have their playoff spot virtually secured. Manager Dave Roberts and his team were in a similar position in 2017, when they went through a stretch where they lost 16 of 17 games in September.

The Dodgers still finished with best record that year, though the slump erased any chance that they could challenge the 2001 Seattle Mariners for most regular-season wins in MLB history.

The Dodgers’ 104 wins were just a few ahead of the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros, eventually giving L.A. home-field advantage in their first World Series berth since 1998. The race for the best record in 2019 is with the Astros — who won the deciding Game 7 of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium — and New York Yankees, winners in two of three in this year’s head-to-head series.

While Roberts admitted that securing home-field advantage should the Dodgers reach their third World Series in as many years is a source of motivation, he does not see it as the team’s primary one.

“I think that’s a carrot that’s out there,” Roberts recently said. “That’s certainly something you’re eyeing to increase your chances of winning a championship. But that is a byproduct of playing good baseball.

“You’re playing against yourselves and challenging yourselves to pitch well, to catch the baseball, take good at-bats, play the game the way fans expect you to play. I think we do a very good job of that as far as our intent every single night.”

During Roberts’ tenure as manager, and especially this season, the Dodgers have developed a reputation of remaining intensely focused through each game and virtually every plate appearance, something extremely difficult to do over a 162-game season.

That approach has fueled one of the most dangerous lineups in baseball, powered by smart veterans, breakout stars, exciting rookies and an MVP candidate in Cody Bellinger. The Dodgers have not strung together massive winning streaks like in previous years but rarely lose a series.

“We’re very competitive ourselves,” Roberts said. “I think if you look at it from that lens, it’s easier to move forward regardless of the standings or who we’re playing. And I say that because our goal is to go out there and play a clean baseball game every night.

“Pitch well, catch the baseball, take quality at-bats and run the bases. When we do that, regardless of opponent, it shouldn’t matter where we’re at in the standings or how many games of a lead we have. When you have that mindset, there’s always room to get better, room for improvement.”