In a period of increasing firsts, the Dodgers just accomplished something they haven't been able to do all year: They've returned home from a road trip in first place in the National League West.
With a week in Washington, D.C. and Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Los Angeles won its first six post-All-Star break games, manhandling their opponents every way imaginable. Come-from-behind wins, exhilarating batting-around rallies, with clutch relief work led to the sweep of the Jays, with last night's down-to-their-last-strike 8-3 wild one being the highlight of the series, if not the entire season.
L.A. averaged eight runs and 14 hits per game during the trip, with contributions up and down the roster. Previously-struggling Mark Ellis hit .390 with 10 RBIs during the six games, similarly-slumping Carl Crawford has managed a .417 over his last five, and the often-questioned Andre Ethier drilled the ball all over the province, hitting .500 with a homer, five doubles and five RBIs in the concluding series.
Even the much-maligned Brandon League picked up wins the last two nights, and was especially keen with two scoreless innings in the finale Wednesday. Maybe the lesson to we baseball fans is that while it may be OK to criticize our struggling ballplayers when they disappoint us, we might want to prepare a little crow for the inevitable turnaround. And perhaps we ought to go easy on the name-calling too.
As is required, I'll continue with my regular mantra till I'm Dodger Blue in the face — things change not just quickly in baseball, but often. Not just quickly, but often.
Los Angeles has won a stunning 23 of 28 games in a little over a month, rebounding from 9 ½ back in last place to lead the division by a game and a half over the Arizona Diamondbacks. They've won 10 straight contests away from home for the first time since 1955 — the year they won their one and only World Series championship in Brooklyn — to improve their road mark to a respectable 26-24.
Baseball teams — and teams in most sports, really — are encouraged to play .500 ball on the road, while seriously taking care of business at home. Another baseball axiom, and one preached forever by Tommy Lasorda, goes something like this: Every team will win 50 games and they're all going to lose 50; it's what you do with the other 62 that makes the difference.
Well, L.A. has played exactly 100 games as of this moment, their record standing at 53-47. A 40-22 result the rest of the way would probably give them the division, as might 35-27, for a final mark of 88-74. But before we start with the references to Tinker Bell, and the memories she conjures, let's recall that the 2012 Dodgers stood a 53-47 after 100 games as well, only to finish 86-76 and eight out. And it took a seven-of-eight-game streak at the end to do it.
The Dodgers must now go from playing the pedestrian Nats and God-awful Jays directly to a four-game series with the impressive Cincinnati Reds, with little time to prepare for the transition. After an extra-inning affair and an overnight flight from Toronto, the players probably got to bed around 5:00 a.m. our time, which was really 8:00 a.m. their time. The Reds took the quick flight in from San Francisco and should be raring to go.
Oftentimes visiting teams, with coast-to-coast flights ahead of them, will ask the host club to reschedule a night game to a 1:00 p.m. start, and while the Jays would have been under no obligation to do so, they very well might have, with the hope that the Dodgers might return the courtesy somewhere down the line. Since we've heard nothing about Los Angeles being displeased with the Toronto organization, it's safe to assume the Dodgers didn't ask. And they should have.
Matchups for the home series with Cincy are as follows: Mat Latos versus Zack Greinke tonight at 7:10 p.m., Homer Bailey vs. Clayton Kershaw Friday at 7:10 p.m., Bronson Arroyo vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu Saturday at 6:10 p.m., and Tony Cingrani vs. Chris Capuano or Stephen Fife Sunday at 1:10 p.m.
As expected, the Dodgers placed Matt Kemp on 15-day disabled list yesterday, retroactive to July 21, replacing him on roster with now-relief pitcher Ted Lilly. A move for an outfielder is expected momentarily. Hold your breath for what might occur there.
The Dodgers have scouts in Chicago to watch the Jake Peavy's start as we speak, and an acquisition is a possibility. Hold your breath for that one too, but for a much better reason.