Dusty Baker told reporters last week that he had no intention of taking his foot off the pedal, even after clinching the NL East, though he said he’d try to rest his veterans and keep his bench players sharp down the stretch.
"There's still time to win as many games as we can,” Baker explained, as quoted by MLB.com, “... because a month ago people thought catching the Dodgers was an impossibility.”
"Now, we're a lot closer than we were before. Plus, they're coming in here for three days [beginning Friday]."
Washington took two of three game from the Dodgers when the Nationals visited Los Angeles in early June, and LA went on to win or split every series they played over the next few months, up until their recent woes began in late August.
Between the series loss to Washington on June 5-7, and the series loss to Milwaukee on August 25-27, Los Angeles went 53-11 in an incredible stretch, but the Dodgers’ series loss to the Brewers started an equally surprising skid which saw them go 3-16 heading into this weekend’s three-game set in Washington, D.C.
“It’s difficult to explain,” Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo said this week, when asked about the big winning and losing streaks the Dodgers experienced on 106.7 the FAN’s The Sports Junkies.
“It’s difficult to do what they did. First of all they went on a 51-9 streak to win a bunch of games, and they lost so many games in a row, which is statistically very difficult to do — to lose 16 out of 17 games, especially when you tack on the fact that they’ve got such great talent on that club, but I chalk it up to baseball.
“Maybe they were a little comfortable. They had a big lead, they’re a really good team.
“Like I always say, they call them averages for a reason, because you’re going to have some hot spurts and some cold spurts and they had an extremely hot streak there for a while, I mean a long, 60-game streak, and then hit a little stumbling block, but they’re still a very dangerous team, they’re a great team, their franchise is put together extremely well and they’re going to be a force come playoff time.”
With back-to-back wins in their last two games (after a 1-16 stretch), the Dodgers start the series in Nationals Park with a 94-52 record.
The Nationals are 89-57 heading into this weekend’s three-game set. There’s still a shot at catching LA for the best record in the National League.
As of now, Washington is lined up for an NLDS matchup with the Chicago Cubs, who have a 2.5-game lead on the Brewers in the NL Central, with LA set to face the Wild Card winner (either Arizona or Colorado right now).
“It doesn’t guarantee anything,” Baker told reporters when asked about aiming for home field advantage last week.
“But it certainly feels a whole lot better with home-field advantage than it does going on the road. Even though we’ve been a good road team. You’d rather have these games in front of your home fans, sleep in your own bed. There’s a lot of advantages to being at home.”
Following the rough stretch for the Dodgers, LA’s skipper Dave Roberts was asked if his team’s confidence has been affected.
“Right now, they’re probably wavering a little bit,” Roberts said earlier this week, as quoted by San Francisco Chronicle writer Hank Schulman.
“But these are the same guys we had when we played winning baseball.”
Will the Dodgers get back to playing winning baseball this weekend in Nationals Park, in a matchup against a potential postseason opponent?