It wasn’t long ago the Los Angeles Dodgers were sitting 8.5 games ahead of the San Francisco Giants in the National League West standings and seemingly on cruise control to a third consecutive division title. However, Los Angeles has now lost four straight games and look to end the skid without the services of Zack Greinke, who was scratched from his start.
There’s been plenty of focus on how manager Don Mattingly would prevent his club from letting up on the gas, if they hadn’t already given their plush position in the standings. “We haven’t won anything yet,” A.J. Ellis matter-of-factly said after Tuesday’s loss. “We haven’t won a thing. This is the time for us to buckle down. Play a little bit better than we have these last four games.”
While they likely won’t garner as much notoriety and attention, Ellis’ comments are similar to those Clayton Kershaw made after the Dodgers dropped a fifth straight game on Aug. 23 in Houston. The club responded with a five-game winning streak and took 18 of the next 23 games before hitting their latest rough patch.
The weight and influence of Kershaw’s words were debated in the weeks after. Kershaw downplayed their significance, while Andre Ethier believed them to be necessary, and so too did Mattingly and Jimmy Rollins.
Ellis acknowledged there being some difficulty in pushing along given the natural inclination to ease up with one of the Dodgers’ goals well within reach, but issued caution. “Everybody starts counting down and you’d like to think it’s inevitable, but you know it’s not,” he said.
“Especially right now with the team that’s chasing us and knowing there’s games ahead of us with them. This thing is far from over. We need to play like a team that wants to win a division title.” After a slow start to the season, which correlated in adjusting to a role as Yasmani Grandal’s backup, Ellis turned the proverbial corner in the second half.
Since the All-Star break, he’s batting .244/.366/.436 with four home runs, 11 RBIs and a .354 wOBA, 128 wRC+ and 119 OPS+. Ellis said recently the uptick in production was enjoyable from the perspective of answering critics and proving to himself he remains a capable Major Leaguer.