Kershaw had the Dodgersâ only victory in their miserable run. In the 16 losses, the starters had a 7.11 earned run average and averaged about four and a third innings per game. The Dodgers lost all 10 games they played against the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Colorado Rockies, who are on track to meet in the National League wild-card playoff game on Oct. 4. If the standings hold, the Dodgers will play the winner in a division series.
âSomething happened over there where Arizona has learned a whole bunch about them, and we know nothing about them,â said Dusty Baker, the manager of the Nationals, the N.L. East leaders. His team was facing the Dodgers for the first time since early June. âSo I think itâs great that weâre playing them this late. Even if they learn something on us, we learn a whole bunch about them.â
If nothing else, it seems the Dodgersâ losing streak punctured the aura of invincibility they had built up around the majors â and, perhaps, within their clubhouse. They finally won a series again this week, taking two of three from the lowly San Francisco Giants, but now they know they cannot simply cruise to a championship.
âI think it just kind of reminded us that itâs not a guarantee,â shortstop Corey Seager said. âItâs understanding that we still have to go out and perform, we still have to do the job and itâs not going to be handed to us. I think thatâs what it did for us.â
Third baseman Justin Turner said it felt like a big deal when the Dodgers finally snapped their streak behind Kershaw on Tuesday. When they won the next day, he said, things seemed back to normal. Their scorching pace for most of the summer was not normal at all.
âWe had a lot of good wins where we were challenged in the game, but the results were always easy,â Turner said. âGoing through that stretch there, losing 16 of 17, I think it was good for us. It put our backs to the wall a little bit. Had some adversity, had to deal with some things. I would have liked, personally, for us to deal with it a little sooner than we did, but I think it was good to get punched in the face and figure out how to handle it.â
To be sure, the losing exposed a few flaws. The setup men for closer Kenley Jansen have hardly been automatic. Curtis Granderson has hit .107 since his trade from the Mets, and the bottom of the lineup has struggled.
Mostly, the starting rotation did not give the Dodgers much of a chance. But in winning the last three games, Kershaw, Yu Darvish and Alex Wood have allowed just one earned run in 19 innings.
âMinus those two weeks, as a unit, weâve been pretty good â it starts there,â said Wood, who improved to 15-3 on Friday with support from homers by Turner, Seager and Yasiel Puig. âAnd then seeing what the lineup did tonight, hopefully weâll see a lot more down the stretch and into the playoffs. Those guys are getting locked back in, and weâre trying to get locked back in.â
Roberts said he had not worried because the teamâs mentality and effort remained sound. But the Dodgersâ torrid pace had brought out the best in their opponents, he said, and the team had become frustrated by the losing.
âIt was kind of a perfect storm of stuff going bad all at once,â Turner said. âI donât think there was any real panic about it, but there was definitely a sense of some urgency in the clubhouse to be a little more accountable and maybe try to play a little better individually, from everyone in the room, to change those results.â
The wins in San Francisco restored a sense of order to the Dodgersâ world, and brought them back to the site of their most recent postseason triumph: a Game 5 thriller in their division series with the Nationals last October.
The Dodgersâ season ended in the next round against the Chicago Cubs, who went on to win the World Series. As the Dodgers strive to succeed the Cubs, they have learned an important lesson.
âItâs hard to win a major league game,â Roberts said. âI think we made it a little bit harder than it could have been.â