A lot of folks who know a lot about baseball will tell you that the Los Angeles Dodgers are the most talented team in baseball.
There’s just one problem.
The best team in baseball – record-wise, anyway – is in their division. The San Francisco Giants are 42-24 and have a seven-and-a-half-game lead over the Dodgers (35-32) entering play June 12.
With 95 games remaining, it’s too early for the Dodgers to get discouraged, but how do they prevent pressure from creeping in?
“I think we just (go out and) play solid baseball,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said on The Morning Show. “That’s our thought. You go out and win a series, you win the next one, you kind of continue on that road and and you really chip away. Two days ago, we’re nine-and-a-half games back. We win two in a row, they lose two in a row (and) we’re seven-and-a-half back. You just kind of consistently get down that road. We know we’re capable of that.”
“We’re down 10-and-a-half games last year and end up winning by 110-and-a-half. So I think we know we’re capable of going out and (putting up) wins on a consistent basis.”
Capable, yes. But actually doing it, not quite – not yet, anyway. The Dodgers have had four three-game winning streaks this season, but a four-game winning streak has proved elusive.
“I’m not sure on why it’s taken time,” Mattingly said. “The biggest issue is that we haven’t played well enough to win four or five in a row and be consistent enough. Last night, we get pretty good pitching again but we don’t score – but we run into Johnny Cueto, who’s pretty good.”
The Dodgers lost to Cincinnati, 5-0, on Wednesday, as Cueto improved to 6-5. He has a 1.85 ERA and 0.77 WHIP.
“But for the most part, we haven’t played good enough to get consistent,” Mattingly said. “And I’m not really worried about the four and five-game streaks. I’m really more about winning that series. (If) we win today, (then) we win three out of four (against the Reds). Then we got to go home and start playing better.”
While the Dodgers could certainly be playing better overall, they can’t ask much more out of Yasiel Puig, who leads the team in hits (75), average (.329), doubles (17), RBIs (40) and OBP (.423).
Puig has also decreased his swing rate on pitches outside the strike zone by almost 12 percent since last season.
“It’s been really the biggest change with him,” Mattingly said. “I think it kind of goes to his talent level. He’s got a talent level that you don’t get to see very often. I’d like to take credit for him kind of having a better swing rate, but a lot of it’s been Adrian Gonzalez and guys on the team. They started playing a little game (where they get points based on who gets) on base the most in each series. I think they started just a little competition between guys in a positive way. I think that’s something that helped Yasiel kind of realize, ‘Hey, if I swing at strikes, I hit the ball harder. I also get on base more and I help my team.’ I think that’s where Yasiel’s made a huge push.”
While Puig is entrenched in right field, it’s been a game of musical chairs in left and center, as Mattingly has played mix-and-match with Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and others.
“You just try to do the best you can with it, honestly,” Mattingly said. “It’s a situation where it’s actually been good production. We’ve gotten really good production out of our outfield, but then you got a guy or two every day who’s not happy with what’s going on. But I don’t know what we do with that other than just try to keep putting guys in the best position, ask them to be good teammates when they’re not playing and doing things that help the team win. We’re just doing the best we can with it.”