Spring in October? It seems like it for the Dodgers, whose next meaningful game will take place in 11 days.
Until then call it the California Cactus League. The Dodgers will follow their 10-1 romp over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night with five more games against those same purple-clad foes. The regular season ends Wednesday followed by five off days with the Dodgers relegated to intrasquad games.
The National League Division Series begins Oct. 11 against the winner of a best-of-three wild card series. While waiting, the Dodgers will spend every day at home, sleeping in their own beds and reporting to Dodger Stadium for duty until hitting the road for Game 3 of the NLDS.
They’ll also have the home-field advantage through the World Series because Friday they clinched the best record in MLB when the Houston Astros lost to the Tampa Bay Rays while the Dodgers game was in progress.
“If you can be home as much as possible, that is huge,” said Clayton Kershaw, who pitched six scoreless innings and saw his ERA dip to 2.30.
Thinking through how the next two weeks will unfold, the Dodgers (109-48) are struck by the oddity of finishing a historic regular season coasting to the finish line then going dormant while two wild card teams to be determined slug it out.
What seems like a blessing could be a challenge.
“There would be advantages to jumping into it right away, but there also would be disadvantages,” said Justin Turner, who will begin his ninth consecutive postseason with the Dodgers. “We’ve had plenty of years where we’ve had a layoff before that first series. I always wonder, is that a good or bad thing?”
In assembling a lineup and utilizing the pitching staff each day, manager Dave Roberts weighs giving regulars ample rest against keeping them sharp.
“There is a little bit [of a desire] to Bubble-Wrap guys to get ready for the postseason, but there is also the part of it where you are getting ready for another season and you want to be playing good baseball going into that,” he said.
The only regular sidelined Friday was Turner, who has been nursing a sore shin since fouling a ball off it 10 days ago and aggravating it while sliding. He wasn’t needed. Cody Bellinger’s three-run home run triggered an eight-run fourth inning. Mookie Betts and Chris Taylor each had three of the Dodgers’ 15 hits.
“If we were in the postseason now [Turner] would be in there, but guarding against any regression is where we are right now,” Roberts said. “Once we get Justin back, I do think the five days off will be beneficial. For some pitchers, that time off will be beneficial, but there will be other guys, specifically on the position player side, who want to keep playing and keep that rhythm.”
They’ll do so only against the last-place Rockies. Why? When the first week of the season was postponed for MLB and the player’s union to complete the collective bargaining agreement, a three-game series against the Rockies was moved to the end of the slate.
Then will come five off days. After resting Thursday, the Dodgers will play intrasquad games the next three days. A light workout will take place the day before the NLDS begins.
“We will circle back and have guys take live at-bats and pitchers throw to live hitters, all that stuff,” Roberts said.
No franchise knows the perils of staying idle ahead of a postseason series better than the Rockies, who were swept by the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 World Series after a record eight days off.
The Rockies were blistering hot, entering the series having won 21 of 22 games. But after sweeping the Diamondbacks in the NLCS, they hunkered down at their spring training facility in Tucson waiting for the Red Sox to take a seven-game series against the Cleveland Indians.
The Rockies were outscored in the World Series 29-10.
Turner said the Dodgers are savvy enough to avoid a letdown or gather rust.
“I don’t think there will be a bunch of team meetings and rah-rah stuff,” he said. “If you look around this [clubhouse], there is a surplus of postseason experience and guys know what this is about, what it’s like to play in it.”
Injured pitchers Tony Gonsolin (forearm), Dustin May (back) and Blake Treinen (shoulder) each made positive strides. Gonsolin is furthest along, scheduled to pitch three innings Monday. Roberts said he’s “confident” May will be able to pitch in the NLDS. But with Treinen, he downgraded his assessment to “hopeful.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.