Sunday, August 18, 2013

Dodgers on a Historic Streak

Back in May, things looked real bad for the Los Angeles Dodgers. They entered the season with the game's highest payroll with big expectations. Part owner Magic Johnson said he expected to contend for a championship this year. Manager Don Mattingly's job was in danger in the first couple of months. The team was hampered with many injuries to key players. They were involved in a couple of brawls vs. the Padres and Diamondbacks, both involving Zack Greinke. On June 21st, the team sat at 30-42, dead last in the National League West. It was looking like a failed season.

After that game, something changed. The team's offense was stagnant early on, partly due to injuries to Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp. The club called up Cuban rookie sensation Yasiel Puig on June 3rd, after the second time Kemp was put on the DL. Carl Crawford and Ramirez got healthy soon after that. Greinke recovered early from his shoulder injury and Clayton Kershaw has been his usual dominant self. The Dodgers worked out a trade for Marlins Ricky Nolasco to stabilize their rotation ravaged from injuries to Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley, and others. Mattingly replaced the ineffective Brandon League with hard throwing Kenley Jansen as the team's closer.

There have been many other factors in the team's turnaround. Hyun-Jin Ryu has had a very good rookie campaign after coming over from Korea. He brings a second lefty for the rotation. Paco Rodriguez has been a very good lefty out of the bullpen, and the team signed former Giants closer Brian Wilson to give the team a late season boost out of the bullpen. Third base had been a revolving door early in the year, but Juan Uribe has solidified that position. Andre Ethier has picked up his play after a slow start. Ethier has played center in Kemp's absence, although Puig might of claimed his right field spot when Kemp comes back. Role players like AJ Ellis, Mark Ellis, Nick Punto, Jerry Hairston Jr., and Skip Schumaker have been solid contributors as well.

Since June 21st, the club is 42-9. They lost today against the Phillies, but just came off one of the best 50 game streaks in baseball history. They went 42-8, matching the 1941 Yankees and 1942 Dodgers. They have been on a historic run of winning. As late as the All Star break, the club was an even .500 at 47-47 in second place in a weak division. Now they are 72-51 with a 8.5 game lead on the second place Diamondbacks. Even better for the club, they only have 10 games out of their remaining 39 against teams with a winning record. Earlier in the season, it looked like Mattingly's job was in danger. Now, he could be a manager of the year candidate.

The Dodgers look like a scary team to meet in a postseason series. Facing Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu, and Nolasco will be no fun for opposing teams. Kemp will soon be back from injury, giving them a healthy lineup with a deep bench. Maybe all this team needed was to be healthy. It's uncertain what was the catalyst for the turnaround, and it has been a team effort. I would say Puig's callup added a spark to the club it could of been lacking. I also think getting Greinke, Ramirez, and others healthy played a big role in their 50 game surge.

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