No, I’m not talking about the extended slump. Not the pitching issues (though why anyone would get on Eric Stults for allowing 3 runs in 5 innings two days after throwing 60 pitches in AAA is beyond me), nor the fact that most of the bats have been quiet.
I’m talking about the impending series in San Francisco, which some have painted as exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time. Look, I don’t want to say this year has been boring, because that’s not the right word. I know we’ve all enjoyed the run with the best record in baseball a hell of a lot more than we did the death march to the end in 2005, right? It’s just that this team hasn’t been challenged by any competition so far. They lost their Opening Day starter, and it didn’t matter. They lost their best hitter for two months in a storm of controversy, and it didn’t slow them down. Other than Kuroda’s time on the DL, they haven’t had one serious injury – and no, I’m not counting Hong-Chih Kuo, because as much as his loss hurt the bullpen, to have ever depended on him was folly with his history. With the exception of Juan Pierre stepping into Mannywood for 50 games, it’s absolutely unbelievable how stable the lineup has been. There’s no platooning, no injury replacements, and no job sharing – other than the usual rest, it’s been the same eight guys night after night. I can’t ever remember a Dodger club with a lineup like that. It’s why you can get away with a 13 man bullpen, when that’s usually a foolish decision.
Up until the last week or so, this team has been on cruise control since about April 5. We all knew they were the most talented team in the division, and they knew it too. If losing Kuroda and Manny didn’t stop them, if not having a 5th starter or an “ace” (blerg) didn’t stop them, well, what did they really have to worry about Colorado’s adorable hot streak behind *guffaw* Jim Tracy, or the strong pitching of San Francisco being weighed down by an offense so punchless it reminds you of the 2003 Dodgers?
It’s August, and they’ve had a big lead the entire season. I like that they’re facing adversity, and I like that they’re being confronted with going into a hostile environment for a big series, because you don’t want to ride into October on a six month streak of complacency.
It’s not just the teams with the most talent that win pennants; it’s the teams with the guts to come through in big spots. Well, for the first time all year, this is a big spot. Let’s see what they’ve got.