ANAHEIM — The sky fell on the Angels on May 28.
Actually it was a meteor that landed on Mike Trout’s thumb.
They were 26-27 when it happened. They figured to be all the way underwater, and maybe stuffed in some old pirate’s trunk, when he returned.
Instead the Angels came into Thursday night’s game with a 16-13 Trout-free record, and they were only one game out of the second American League wild-card spot.
“What those guys over there have done without him speaks volumes,” said Dave Roberts, the Dodgers manager, as he looked across the Angel Stadium diamond.
“When you talk about not letting a guy beat you, scouting, lengthening the lineup, it completely changes things when he’s not there.”
“It’s very comparable to where we were.”
He knows. A year ago this week, the Dodgers were pinned beneath the same asteroid.
Clayton Kershaw lost to Pittsburgh on June 26. A bad disc in his back took him to the disabled list and promised to take the Dodgers into the nearest abyss. They were already eight games behind San Francisco in the NL West race.
This was serious because whenever Kershaw burped, the Dodgers took Pepcid. In 2014 they won 23 and lost four in Kershaw’s starts, which is why a starting pitcher won the MVP Award.
The next time Kershaw’s turn came up, Bud Norris pitched six two-hit innings against Colorado and won, 5-0. The Dodgers got to the All-Star break only six games behind.
As Giants fans began to worry about the playoff roster, the headless horsemen from the south began riding.
“I didn’t say anything to the guys,” Roberts said. “Sometimes the best things go unsaid. They knew what was at stake. Everyone knew he had to give a little more. There were excuses, but they weren’t having any of it. When they’re saying the right things, you know you don’t have to say much.”
By the time Kershaw returned on Sept. 9, the Dodgers led by four games and clinched the division title on the next-to-last weekend. One prediction did hold: The final three games of the regular season were meaningless, as the Dodgers lost them all to the Giants.
“I don’t know what it means long term,” Roberts said. “But I do think it has had a carry-over effect from last year to this year.”
Going into Thursday, the Dodgers were 102-64 since Kershaw went down. Whatever psychological dependence they had on their left-hander had been dispelled. This is not to say they don’t value him deeply. This year they are 14-2 when he…