Lose a dozen games off the division lead, stagger toward the finish line, then win the World Series? Can the Dodgers really pull this off?
One of the Dodgers already has.
In 2005, when Brandon McCarthy pitched for the Chicago White Sox, his team led its division by 15 games on Aug. 1. Their lead fell to 1 1/2 games on Sept. 22, but they rallied to win eight of the final 10 games in the regular season and then went 11-1 in the playoffs, including a sweep of the Houston Astros in the World Series.
"I remember the panic was extremely external," McCarthy said. "It was media going on about how this was going to be the biggest collapse ever.
"On the inside, I don't remember it being much different. You just keep playing, and eventually things regress back to the mean in your direction. If you're a good team, you're a good team. You let the hysteria sit on the outside. On the inside, it just stays a group of guys: you do your workout, you do your things, and then you go play baseball.
"Unless you have a thing where it's a complete collapse and a lack of effort and everybody has given up — and that's certainly not the case, and it isn't the case in many places — you keep at it."
The Dodgers plan to use a set lineup as they close the regular season, manager Dave Roberts said, soon shifting out of the current mode of resting starters and easing players back from the disabled list.
The lineup: Cody Bellinger at first base, Corey Seager at shortstop, Justin Turner at third base, Chris Taylor in center field and Yasiel Puig in right field, along with some combination of Austin Barnes and Yasmani Grandal at catcher and Logan Forsythe and Chase Utley at second base.
That leaves left field. Andre Ethier might be a fan favorite, but Roberts said it would be unrealistic to expect the oft-injured Ethier to play regularly.
"We haven't seen it in two years," Roberts said.
Curtis Granderson, Enrique Hernandez and Joc Pederson also could play there. Granderson started Monday, despite his .114 average in 21 games since joining the Dodgers. Roberts said the Dodgers want to "get Curtis right."
Said Roberts: "Outside of these last couple weeks with us, he's had a very productive year."
Clayton Kershaw starts Tuesday and Yu Darvish on Wednesday, meaning the Dodgers' probable top two playoff starters won't pitch in the weekend series against the Washington Nationals, a possible playoff opponent. The Nationals won't start Max Scherzer in the series, and they might not start Gio Gonzalez.
Darvish, who never has started at AT&T Park, will get his introduction to the Dodgers-Giants rivalry.
"When we went to San Diego and Arizona, they were constantly saying, 'Beat L.A.,' " Darvish said through an interpreter. "It's the same thing."
The Giants fans just might convince him otherwise.
Hero of ’88
Mel Didier, a scout for multiple organizations in his six decades in baseball and an unsung hero in the Dodgers' greatest moment of the past 30 years, died Sunday night. He was 90.
When Kirk Gibson worked the count full against Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series, he stepped out of the batter's box and remembered Didier's scouting report on Eckersley: "Pardner, sure as I'm standing here breathing, you gonna see a 3-2 backdoor slider."
Didier called it. Eckersley threw it. Gibson hit it, for one of the most legendary home runs in baseball history.