By Matt Citak
As we have seen time and time again in sports, one of the most important aspects of winning a championship is getting hot at the right time.
With the 2018 MLB regular season coming to a close in less than two weeks, now is the time that teams want to be playing their best baseball.
For the Los Angeles Dodgers, that is exactly what they are doing.
Los Angeles struggled to start the year, but a late surge from June 1 until the All-Star break brought them from four games under .500 to a 53-43 record. After another six weeks of middling baseball, the Dodgers found themselves at 68-61 on August 24, trailing both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies by a few games.
But everything seemed to change on that fateful late-August day.
Los Angeles had just gotten swept at home by the St. Louis Cardinals, scoring a total of six runs in the three-game set. It wasn’t just that they lost, but it was also the way they had lost- two of the three games were decided by St. Louis home runs in the top of the 9th inning off Dodgers star closer Kenley Jensen.
The Dodgers had just 34 games remaining on their schedule, and were beginning to flirt with the danger of missing their first postseason since 2012.
But that Friday, Dave Roberts managed to find a way to flip the switch on the team and get them back to playing the level of ball that everyone expected from the Dodgers this season.
Los Angeles went on to sweep the San Diego Padres before traveling to Arlington and taking both games of a short interleague series with the Texas Rangers.
And from there, the Dodgers were off.
Since that dreadful series against the Cardinals, Roberts’ squad has gone 17-7. What started as a few game deficit in the race for the National League West title has turned into a 1.5 game lead with only 10 contests remaining.
The most telling game to help explain the Dodgers’ late-season run was the team’s huge win over Colorado Tuesday night.
Los Angeles blew a fantastic start by Clayton Kershaw, not giving their ace any run support after he allowed just one earned run in seven innings.
But even so, the two teams were tied at 2 heading into the 10th inning when the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor blasted a game-winning home run deep to the left field stands.
Of course, the division race is not over yet. If Colorado wins the final game of the series between the division rivals on Wednesday, the lead will be back down to just 0.5 games.
However, the schedule is more favorable to Los Angeles, who will finish out their season with three games at home against the Padres, three on the road in Arizona, and the final three games in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, the Rockies will have to travel to Arizona for three games before heading home for a crucial four-game set against the Philadelphia Phillies, and then will close out the year at home against the Washington Nationals.
While nothing is impossible, it will be difficult for the Rockies to win the division crown now, especially if they fall to the Dodgers in the series finale Wednesday (which would push them back 2.5 games). However, Colorado also sits just 1.5 games back in the Wild Card, meaning some solid play in the final week-and-a-half of the season could still clinch them a spot in postseason play.
As Roberts said after Los Angeles’ walk-off win Tuesday, the Dodgers are playing their “best baseball” as the regular season is nearing its final week.
We have seen it countless times in sports, but sometimes all you need is to get hot at the right time to light a fire under a team’s quest for a championship.
Only time will tell if the Dodgers can ride their stellar late-season play into the franchise’s first World Series Championship since 1988.
Matt Citak is a contributor for CBS Local Sports and a proud Vanderbilt alum. Follow him on Twitter.