After losing three of four games after the All-Star break, the Dodgers are at an interesting fork in the road. They have lost 18 of their last 24 games and are at their low point of the season to date in the standings at two games back of San Francisco.
"I'm not going to change because all of a sudden we're losing games. We'll stay with what we do, with who we are," manager Don Mattingly said Monday night. "I expect to win every day, no matter who we play, no matter who we're matched up with."
That expectation will get tested Tuesday night, as there is quite a contrast in starting pitchers. Roy Halladay gets the start for the Phillies, while Stephen Fife is expected to make his major league debut for the Dodgers. But that is just the beginning of a gauntlet that is their next dozen games.
The Dodgers face Halladay and Cliff Lee in their final two games against the Phillies, then after a Thursday off day they open a 10-game road trip that takes them to New York, St. Louis (for four games), and San Francisco.
But then again, it might not matter who starts against the Dodgers. In their last 25 games, opposing starters have pitched 22 quality starts against the Dodgers, averaging an even seven innings per start, with a 2.11 ERA, and 0.931 WHIP, with 32 walks and 135 strikeouts. In 19 of those 25 games, the opposing starter has allowed two earned runs or less.
Even at a season-low two games out of a playoff spot the Dodgers are still just two games out, though that figure could get worse in the next two weeks if they continue to play this poorly. As Jon Weisman wrote for Los Angeles Magazine, "The Dodgers find themselves in a predicament – looking very much in contention, but looking very little like a contender."
But Mattingly sees this stretch as an opportunity, if not a litmus test.
"I talked about it before I took this job the very first time. It's one of the things I wanted out of my club, I wanted toughness," Mattingly said. "Part of toughness is losing 18 out of 24 and saying, 'I'm not backing off, I won't quit working.' It's a fight. We're going through a tough time."
Game Time: 7:10 p.m.