Giants catcher Hector Sanchez tags out Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis on a play… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
Never in their little lives have the Dodgers been bigger fans of trends.
There is not a fashion designer breathing, a hip teenager posing or fad-obsessed pop star strutting, currently more focused on popularizing a current trend than the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers are about to begin a three-game set in San Francisco on Friday, in what is only their biggest series of the season.
The first time the Dodgers went to AT&T Park this season, they were swept, shut out in all three games. When they next came back, they returned the favor, sweeping the Giants. And then finally, when the Giants were at Dodger Stadium for three games Aug. 20-22, the Dodgers were swept again.
Now the Dodgers return trailing the Giants by 4½ games in the National League West with 24 games left to their season, and very much needing a sweep.
“I like the trend if we win the first game,” said Manager Don Mattingly.
It’s difficult to overcome a large deficit with just over three weeks left to the season, but the Dodgers’ hopes are buoyed by knowing they play the Giants three this weekend and then finish the season with three more against them at home.
“Games almost count as two,” said catcher A.J. Ellis. “Not only do we win, but they lose. Obviously a big series. All the games are big the rest of the way, but it’s nice to be on the field with the team that you’re chasing.”
Only their first series, when the Dodgers took two of three at home in May from the Giants, has bucked the sweep trend.
The Dodgers had won eight of their last 11 games and led the division by a half-game when the Giants came to Dodger Stadium for that late August series and swept a three-game set to retake an NL West lead. The Giants have not relinquished it since.
Sweeps all around.
“The first time in there, we were playing absolutely horrible,” Mattingly said. “We were kind of down offensively. Andre [Ethier] gets hurt the first game in that series, and Matt [Kemp] was already out, we had others out. We weren’t really playing well. We got shut out three times.
“The next time I felt like we went in and kind of established ourselves. We had to fight back during that series. That happens and then we come back here and get swept. It’s hard to explain.”
If the Dodgers are swept, they can officially focus on the wild-card race. They really can’t even afford to win only one game. What they really need is a sweep. Need to step up now.
“We still have games after that,” said Shane Victorino. “There is definitely urgency, but it’s not going to be the end of the world if we don’t go up there and sweep them. But we have an opportunity to gain some ground and need to do that.”
Ellis hesitated when asked whether he thought in reality, the Dodgers had to sweep.
“We need to win Friday night, set the tone, and go from there,” he said. “We just need to focus on winning Friday.”
If they lose the opener and come back to win the last two, they would leave San Francisco 3½ games back with 21 to go.
“We need to win the series,” Mattingly said. “We just need to see what happens here. They’re still going to lose games, too. We have to take care of our own business.
“Really, we need to get on a little roll. We can’t win three, and lose two, and then win a couple and lose a couple. I mean, it’s just not going to make it. That’s not a playoff team and it’s not playoff baseball.”
In their last 16 games, the Dodgers are a disappointing 6-10. They’ll send out Josh Beckett on Friday against the Giants’ Tim Lincecum.
“We have to go out there and play every game like it’s our last game,” Kemp said.
And hope current trends continue.
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