MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Dodgers' play reminiscent of Roberts

Dodgers' play reminiscent of Roberts

Dave Roberts played for five teams during a 10-year Major League career. He was a full-time player for just three of those seasons.

Here's the point: Nothing came easy for Roberts. To stay on a roster, he had to sweat the small stuff: defense, baserunning, etc.

Roberts understood that baseball games typically are won by the team that makes the fewest mistakes. And maybe that's the larger story of these Los Angeles Dodgers, who on Sunday clinched their fourth straight National League West championship.

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This time, the Dodgers did it under a rookie manager, Roberts, who somehow got his team to see and play the game the way he played it.

"Don't they say a team takes on the personality of its manager?" third baseman Justin Turner said.

That's exactly what they say.

"Everything we do starts with Doc," Turner said, referring to Roberts' nickname.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Unstoppable

That Los Angeles entered this week's series in San Diego 90-66 is remarkable considering that its roster has been a revolving door. The club placed 28 players on the disabled list, the most in the Majors since at least 1987.

The Dodgers have used 55 players, tying a franchise record, and 31 pitchers, also a record. Roberts gave at least 10 starts to five left fielders and at least 20 to three right fielders.

Los Angeles used 15 starting pitchers. Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher on earth, spent 76 days on the DL. In the second half of the season, the Dodgers had five relievers and six starting pitchers on the DL at a time.

Somehow, the Dodgers rolled to another division championship. They did it because president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman assembled an extraordinarily deep staff.

Roberts started a rookie pitcher 66 times and got 30 victories, the most since 1952.

But …

The Dodgers played the game the way their manager played it. First, they didn't allow themselves to be discouraged by the injuries.

"No one was going to feel sorry for us," Roberts said, "and we certainly weren't going to feel sorry for ourselves."

The Dodgers showed up each day and figured they always had enough in their clubhouse to win. They had long, competitive at-bats. They made just 74 errors, the fourth fewest in the Majors. Only the Cubs had a better Defensive Efficiency Ratio, according to MLB.com.

Los Angeles may not have a single Gold Glove winner, but everyone on its infield was above average.

How They Got There: Dodgers

Offensively, the Dodgers did that a different way, too. Only this was by design. Only four position players got 500 at-bats -- shortstop Corey Seager, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, second baseman Chase Utley and Turner.

Otherwise, Roberts mixed and matched his lineups to find advantageous matchups. Sure, some players would have preferred more playing time.

On the other hand, it's impossible to argue with success. The Dodgers averaged five runs per game after the All-Star break, the third most in the Majors.

On June 26, the Dodgers trailed the Giants by eight games. Since then, Los Angeles is 49-30, the third-best record in the Majors. (San Francisco has gone 33-46 during that stretch.)

Dodgers pitchers have a solid 3.80 ERA in these 79 games. Offensively, they've watched rookie Seager put MVP-caliber numbers on the board (.313 batting average, 26 home runs, 72 RBIs).

Catcher Yasmani Grandal has 21 home runs in his past 67 games. Turner (16), Gonzalez (11), center fielder Joc Pederson (11) and Seager (10) have all hit double-digit home runs in this stretch.

Kershaw returned in time to get four playoff tuneup starts in September, and he was as good as ever: 0.86 ERA with one walk, 23 strikeouts in 21 innings.

Roberts said Tuesday that Los Angeles will line up veteran left-hander Rich Hill, acquired from Oakland at the Trade Deadline, and rookie Kenta Maeda behind Kershaw in the NL Division Series.

The Cubs are consensus favorites to win the NL, and the Dodgers might not even be favored to get by the Nationals in the NLDS.

Through all the injuries and the sprint to the NL West championship, the Dodgers have developed both toughness and resiliency. There's also a quiet confidence.

"It's unbelievable how many guys have contributed to get where we are," Roberts said. "Those guys love each other. They love the city, the organization, especially they love the fans."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.