A 125-win pace? Dodgers believe surge is sustainable
MIAMI — Clayton Kershaw’s notion that the past five extraordinary weeks are the new norm for the Los Angeles Dodgers seems to be taking hold.
Entering the All-Star break, Kershaw suggested the Dodgers’ surge might not be a surge at all, but a sustainable pace. Then his team began the second half of the season with a three-game sweep at Miami last weekend.
The NL West leaders start a two-game series at the White Sox on Tuesday with a nine-game winning streak and baseball’s best record at 64-29 (.688). They have won 29 of their past 33 games (.879).
That’s some surge. Or not.
“We’ve been pretty good all year,” third baseman Justin Turner said. “To say it’s a five-week thing I don’t think is fair to the team.”
If the Dodgers play .879 ball the rest of the year, they would finish with 125 wins. Don’t tell them they won’t.
“Clayton’s quote about, ‘Are we on a hot streak, or is this just who we are?’ — I never really thought about it that way, but I’m starting to think maybe this is just who we are,” unbeaten left-hander Alex Wood said with a laugh. “We have a different guy doing it every night, whether it’s pitching or one of the guys in the lineup. It has been incredible.”
The Dodgers’ record merits comparisons to their teams in 1977 and 1955, both World Series clubs. They’re 35 games above .500 for the first time since ’77, and the record at the 93-game mark is their best since ’55.
Why all the winning? Among the many reasons are Kershaw, Wood, Kenley Jansen , Yasiel Puig and Cody Bellinger.
—The Dodgers are 55-18 (.753) since Bellinger was promoted from the minors. He has 26 homers and on Saturday became the first rookie in the 128-year history of the franchise to hit for the cycle.
—They’re 31-6 (.838) when Puig bats eighth, and he hits that low because the rest of the lineup’s so potent. Puig is having his best year and ranks second on the team with 19 homers.
—They’re 23-0 when Jansen has a save opportunity. Even more impressive than his 0.90 ERA are his 61 strikeouts and two walks.
—They’re 11-0 when Wood gets a decision. He’s the first Dodgers pitcher since at least 1913 to win his first 11 decisions in a season.
—And they’ve won Kershaw’s past 13 starts. He’s 14-2, leads the majors in victories and will take the ball again Tuesday in Chicago. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has helped Los Angeles lead the majors with an ERA of 3.12.
And the offense?
“I feel like every time I go out and pitch, we score five, six, seven runs,” Wood said. “It definitely takes the pressure off early. But you’ve got to focus on smelling blood in the water and throw up zeroes so we can finish the game.
“We’re just clicking on all cylinders, man.”
Even so, there might be room for improvement. The Dodgers are widely expected to swing a deal before the trade deadline to reinforce their pitching. And five-time All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, sidelined more than a month because of a herniated disk, is expected back before Sept. 1.
As it is, Los Angeles began the week leading second-place Arizona by 10½ games and Colorado by 11½ in the NL West, even though both teams are more than 10 games above .500.
“Those guys are good ballclubs,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “But we have really hit our stride. We knew going into the season we would be the best team. It was up to us to go out there and prove it.”
Kershaw and company are confident they’ll continue to do so.