The Los Angeles Dodgers are running away with a double-digit lead in the National League West and well on their way to a seventh consecutive division title. They also are tied with the New York Yankees for the best record in baseball.
On their heels are the Houston Astros, who began Tuesday at 87-47 and just a half-game back of catching the Dodgers and Yankees. Both American League teams would pose a significant threat to potentially handing L.A. their third straight World Series loss.
That could make clinching home-field advantage in the World Series a top priority for the Dodgers going forward, especially because the NL West race is pretty much over.
Yet, manager Dave Roberts does not see securing homefield as the team’s main motivation for the rest of the season, but instead a result of how the Dodgers should continue to approach matters. “I think that’s a carrot that’s out there,” Roberts 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.”
The Dodgers were in a similar position in 2017, when they edged out Astros and Cleveland Indians for the best record in baseball even after a September slump where they lost 16 out of 17 games.
Roberts believes that the “quirky dynamic” that contributed to the stretch does not exist on this team. Regardless, home-field advantage in the World Series that year did not prevent them from losing in seven games to the Astros.
While this Dodgers team may have initially seemed to have less talent on paper than the 2017 roster, they have proven skeptics wrong. Alex Verdugo and Will Smith emerged as productive rookies worthy of spots in the team’s lineup.
A.J. Pollock has been generally productive when healthy, and Max Muncy followed up his breakout 2018 with an All-Star season in 2019. In his first season replacing the mercurial Yasiel Puig as the primary right fielder, Cody Bellinger has become a superstar MVP candidate.
Furthermore, Hyun-Jin Ryu, who made only one start in 2017, has emerged as an All-Star and Cy Young favorite this year. Walker Buehler has solidified himself as the team’s ace of the future while Clayton Kershaw has remained healthy and elite.
The Dodgers did not add an impact relief pitcher at the July 31 trade deadline but also have plenty of talent likely to make an impact in October such as Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin and possibly Gavin Lux.