Time Off Can't Break Dodgers' Mojo: Lead Now 10
July 17, 2017

If you follow sports at all, you know you don't mess with a streak. Some refuse to shave until they lose. Others won't change their underwear. If you had a chicken sandwich before the game three days in a row, and won all three games, you keep eating chicken sandwiches. The worst thing in the world is a change in routine, or an interruption. If you have won 23 out of your last 26, you don't want four days off. The All-Star break hasn't stopped the Dodgers, and we certainly like to think that chicken sandwiches and underwear aren't the reason for winning, either.

A week ago, the Dodgers entered the All-Star break with a 63-29 record, the best record in the majors, and a six-game winning streak. Clayton Kershaw, unable to pitch in the All-Star game because of the Sunday start, decided to put on a show of his own. He pitched a complete game, struck out 13, lowered his ERA to 2.18, and earned his league-leading 14th win. Nothing could go wrong, except the calendar. With four days off, what would happen to the momentum? As it turns out, at least so far, nothing.

Their first game back on Friday in Miami looked like Uncle Mo (momentum) may have taken off. The Dodgers were trailing in the ninth inning, down to their last out, and then their last strike. That's when Yasiel Puig homered for the second time in the game. That gave the Dodgers the lead, and they held it in the bottom of the ninth, and won again.

Saturday's game wasn't in much doubt, but it was rookie Cody Bellinger's turn to shine. Not only did he homer, but he also singled, doubled, and tripled. He became just the tenth Dodger to hit for the cycle, the first since Orlando Hudson in 2009 and just the second in 47 years (Wes Parker). He also became the youngest Dodger and the first rookie to accomplish the feat, and the Dodgers won again.

Sunday's game was kind of a snoozer compared to the first two, but LA took a 3-2 win, their ninth straight, and a sweep of the Marlins. Oh yeah, Justin Turner, who will be the league's leading hitter in a week or so (doesn't have enough at-bats to qualify right now due to an earlier injury) had two hits, including a first-inning home run.

So now the Dodgers are 64-29. The 7 game lead over Arizona is now 10, they are 9-0 since July 4, 12-1 since June 28, 23-3 since June 15 and 29-4 since their June 6 2-1 loss vs. Washington. The last time they won 29 out of 33 was in 1977, and the Dodgers ended up in the World Series. The ridiculous numbers can't seem to be stopped.

So what's next? After an off day today, the Dodgers open a two-game series in Chicago tomorrow against the White Sox, and send Kershaw to the mound. The 14-2 ace faces the team with the worst record in the American League. On paper, this looks like it could be their tenth straight, but you know baseball. It's matchups like this where things could go wrong. Remember, you don't mess with a streak. You'd better have a chicken sandwich before the game, and whatever you do, don't change your underwear.

Trade bait: Major league baseball's trading deadline is at the end of the month, and there's already been a couple of pre-deadline doozies. The Cubs acquired pitcher Jose Quintana from the cross town White Sox, and the Nationals picked up some badly needed bullpen help from Oakland, getting relievers Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle. Rumors surrounding the Dodgers have been fairly quiet, but believe it or not, they might deal for a starting pitcher. Despite the stable of arms the Dodgers have, only Kershaw and Alex Wood seem reliable for the playoffs. Look for the Diamondbacks and Rockies to get more offense, and the Houston Astros, who were trying to get Quintana all year, to get a starting pitcher. Oakland's Sonny Gray seems to be the top target.

Sunday night sabbatical: If you watch ESPN Sunday night baseball, you may have noticed that play-by-play man Dan Shulman has been absent the last few weeks. While no explanation has been given, further research (meaning Google) has revealed that Shulman has announced he will not be back next year. While there was nothing from ESPN, Shulman told Sports Illustrated,, and other outlets, that he is stepping away on his own for personal reasons. The 50 year-old is getting married again, and apparently feels the Sunday gig is too much of a grind. The Toronto native will still do a handful of Blue Jays telecasts, and will still do the prime time college basketball broadcasts. He also says he'll do baseball postseason for ESPN Radio, but don't be surprised if the network pulls the plug on that. As for Shulman's replacement in the booth, none has been named, but Karl Ravech has been filling in, and don't be surprised if Giants broadcaster Dave Flemming gets a shot. His ESPN assignments have been increasing rapidly over the last couple of years. Shulman has been doing Sunday Night Baseball since 2011, when the network decided to part company with original broadcasters Jon Miller and Joe Morgan.

Off years: The Great West League collegiate wood bat summer season is almost three-quarters of the way done, and things are not looking good for the local teams. There are six teams in the league, and four make the post-season. The Marysville Gold Sox (16-27) are in fifth place, and 4 games out of that final playoff spot. The Yuba City Bears (10-32) are bringing up the rear, and have lost nine straight, including a 23-10 home loss to the fourth-place Portland Pickles Sunday.

Anti-youth movement: While 22 year-old Cody Bellinger (he just turned 22 last week) and 25 year-old Aaron Judge are the talk of baseball right now, it's the old folks who have gotten the tennis headlines at Wimbledon. Venus Williams, at age 37, almost became the oldest female Wimbledon champion ever, but lost in the finals to Garbine Mugaruza in straight sets. On the men's side, 35 (almost 36) year-old Roger Federer became the first man to win the sport's most prestigious title eight times, and is the oldest men's champ in the open era. Not bad for a bunch of geezers, eh?

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