Blue-hot offense powers Dodgers into first-place tie
In 2013, the Dodgers were 9 1/2 games out of first place in June, and came back and won the National League West.
In 2014, the Dodgers were 10 games out of first place in June, and came back and won the National League West.
In 2015, the Dodgers were … well, they were in first place already in June, so that’s good.
But in 2016, the Dodgers were eight games out of first place in June. Late June, in fact. With Clayton Kershaw going on the disabled list.
There are still 49 games remaining in the regular season, but if nothing else, the Dodgers have made their latest grand comeback.Pounding Phillies pitching phor the second night in a row, Los Angeles romped to a 9-3 victory that moved them into a first-place tie with San Francisco at 64-49.
While this is no 42-8 run to resemble 2013, the Dodgers are 23-13 (.639) since Kershaw last pitched, the best record in the NL. Their .515 winning percentage in games Kershaw hasn’t started this season (50-47) would put the Dodgers .007 behind St. Louis for a wild-card spot.
“I think that obviously when you look at the standings, that’s something to hang your hat on a little bit,” Dave Roberts said after the game. “But the bigger picture is the way we’re going about preparing every day. Like I always say, the wins are a byproduct of our preparation, so that’s what we’re trying to focus on.”
If the Dodger bullpen has gone from unsung hero of the 2016 team to focal point of praise, the Dodger offense is making its own in-your-face bid for recognition.
For the second time in the past 2 1/2 weeks, Los Angeles hung a fine nine on an opposing starter. On July 24, it was Cardinals freshman Mike Mayers. Tonight, it was Phillies rookie Vince Velasquez, who entered the game with a 3.33 ERA this year.
The Dodgers have slugged 10 homers in its past three games, which matched their three-game total from September 17-19, 2006 — when seven of those came in the (1+1+) 4+1 Game. As Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. noted, the Dodgers have homered at least three times in three straight games for the first time since May 7-10, 2006.
Tonight’s long hitters …
- Justin Turner hit his 21st homer of the season and 20th as a third baseman. When the week began, the Dodgers hadn’t had a shortstop or third baseman with 20 homers since Adrian Beltre in 2004. Now they have both.
- Yasmani Grandal extended his career high with his 18th homer of the season, his 13th in his past 33 games. Since June 1, Grandal has a .410 on-base percentage, .604 slugging percentage and 1.014 OPS.
- Howie Kendrick (2 for 4) gave the Dodgers the lead with a three-run homer in the second inning. Since May 1, Kendrick has a .351 OBP, .429 slugging percentage and .780 OPS.
And then there’s the supporting cast. Corey Seager and Chase Utley singled twice. Adrian Gonzalez doubled twice. Joc Pederson reached base thrice.
“There’s really no breaks in our lineup now, and there’s stress throughout,” Roberts said. “It’s just a credit to these guys to understand that it’s a long season, and to not give the season away in April, understanding that every at-bat we’re always trying to get better. And now they’re seeing some fruits.”
The only guy waiting to get in on the fun is Josh Reddick, who continues to hit in hard luck, including tonight’s 95 mph drive deep to the left-center gap. Twenty of Reddick’s 25 outs as a Dodger have been on contact — his moment will come.
In the meantime, the Dodgers roll on, throwing a lengthy lineup and vast multitudes of pitchers at the rest of baseball. It’s not always pretty — it’s kind of a grind, in fact. But it is making a noticeable dent in the NL pennant race.
Forty-nine games to go. We begin again Wednesday.