For a “World Series or bust” fan base, the weekend was a bust.
The Dodgers did not get blown out. But they did not play particularly well either, and they did nothing to ease the suspicion that the team might not find a championship gear this year.
June is just about halfway done. The Dodgers are two games above .500.
“I’m very certain we’ll be well above that going forward,” Manager Dave Roberts said.
And playing in October?
“We’re going to play through October,” Roberts said. “How about that one? Write that one. Tweet that one out.”
He spoke those words before Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants. The bravado and defiance in his voice had dissipated after the game, replaced by bafflement and confusion.
This was a series the Dodgers had set themselves up to win. The Giants did nothing to alter their starting rotation, so Madison Bumgarner did not pitch in the series.
The Dodgers juggled their rotation to ensure Clayton Kershaw did pitch and to line up a left-handed starter in every game against the Giants’ left-leaning lineup.
Same old story. The Dodgers won the game Kershaw started, lost the other two. They’re 12-1 when Kershaw starts, 21-30 when he does not. They fell five games behind San Francisco in the National League West.
The pitching was pretty good. The hitting was not. Roberts said the Dodgers are not short of talent or effort among their hitters, leaving him without an answer as to why the team cannot sustain an offense.
On Sunday, the Dodgers did not have a hit with runners in scoring position. They did have a pop fly drop in the infield, and a player ejected. Their cleanup batter tried to beat the shift and bunt for a single in the ninth inning, representing the tying run. He was thrown out.
The pitching has held up, for all the injuries. The Dodgers have a better earned-run average than the Giants.
“But the main thing for us is getting our offense,” first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said, “and being able to score four runs a game, or more.”
The Dodgers have failed to score more than four runs in any of their last six games, in 10 of their last 11, in 12 of their last 14. They cannot sustain the winning streak that would propel them toward first place if they cannot give their pitchers even a slight margin of error.
Their longest winning streak this season is four games. Their on-base percentage ranks among the bottom five in the NL.
And, although they have admirable organizational depth in arms, they do not have similar depth in bats. That could require the front office to surrender prospects, reluctantly, to acquire a hitter.
Ellis declined to say what those additions should be. The next six weeks, he said, will speak for themselves.
But the Dodgers are last or next to last in the NL in OPS at three positions: catcher, third base, and left field.
It is difficult to envision the Dodgers’ front office giving up on catcher Yasmani Grandal, its prize acquisition in its first winter running the team. It is also difficult to see the Dodgers giving up on third baseman Justin Turner now when they had the chance to get Todd Frazier last winter, and Turner hit the ball hard all weekend.
The outfield? They’ll try Trayce Thompson and Yasiel Puig flanking Joc Pederson for a while. They’ll also be linked to a persistently high number of Ryan Braun trade rumors.
The Dodgers flew to Arizona on Sunday night, with history to console them. After their June 12 game two years ago, they were two games over .500, and they won the division. After their June 12 game three years ago, they were nine games under .500 — in last place — and they won the division.
“This is not a slow start,” Gonzalez said. “We can be better. A slow start is a last-place team.
“If you’re talking about us having a slow start and we’re [two] games over .500, I like where we’re at.”