Must-Win October for Mattingly and the Dodgers

After seeing last night’s heart-wrenching 3-1 loss to the New York Mets at home, the Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves with their backs already against the wall just one game into the postseason. With players like Adrian Gonzalez striking out three times in Game 1, things look bleak for the Boys in Blue.

The Dodgers have the highest payroll in baseball that currently sits at about $314 million, almost $95 million ahead of the second-highest (New York Yankees). You would expect a team with this type of payroll to be winning and dominating the league. In the regular season, some could consider the Dodgers a dominating team. They did win the NL West by eight games over last year’s World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.

But it’s the postseason history that has people uneasy.

The Dodgers haven’t been to a World Series since 1988 and Kirk Gibson‘s famous walk-off home run. With the enormous payroll they have now, they lost 3-1 in the NLDS last year, they lost 4-2 in the NLCS the year before, and then hadn’t made the playoffs since 2009.

Their ace, Clayton Kershaw, is 1-6 with a 4.99 ERA in the postseason. Considering he’s the glue of this team, he will need to have a much better October this year. His start last night was a loss and he did give up three runs, but that is a sign of progress. The three-time Cy Young award winner did strike out 11, and two of his runs came after the bullpen allowed inherited runners to score. Kershaw has proven that he may not be a big game pitcher in the postseason, but give him a few more starts before you write the narrative on his struggles in permanent ink.

Don Mattingly has been constantly ridiculed for in-game management problems and the difficulty of getting his team to the World Series — something that shouldn’t be that difficult with a $300 million-plus payroll. It would seem that way, but much of that payroll is sunk into poor contracts and injured, underperforming players. It’s hard to pin everything on Mattingly if the Dodgers fail to reach the World Series, but the manager always shoulders more of the team when the roster that the front office assembled does not live up to the hype.

The Dodgers play the Mets in Game 2 tonight at Chavez Ravine. They’ll send Zack Greinke to the mound while the Mets will send Noah Syndergaard.

These playoffs mean more for the Dodgers. They’re expected to go to the World Series every year, and they’ve been disappointing to say the least. If they can’t find a way to get to the World Series, jobs and legacies will be in jeopardy.

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