They are 26-4 over the last month or so. When they score first, they are 43-7. Since a guy named Cody Bellinger was brought up from the minor leagues, they are 52-18. Now, at the All-Star break, the Los Angeles Dodgers have the best record in Major League Baseball. If you've been a follower of this unbelievable ball club over the last several weeks, that distinction should come as no surprise. However, whether you've been keeping an eye on all of the teams, or just an occasional glance at the standings, you may be a little shocked.
The Dodgers are 61-29. The Houston Astros, which are rapidly becoming this year's Cubs if they aren't already, are 60-29, just a half-game behind the Boys in Blue. The Astros have run away with the American League West, with a lead of a whopping 16˝ games over the Angels and Rangers. Houston is cruising, they don't have a problem, and are on mission to splash down into the post-season. Perhaps they are on a collision course with the Dodgers, but that movie won't open until October.
The Dodgers are just simply hot right now. Are they the best? You certainly can't argue that they are not. They are third in the National League in home runs and runs batted in, and lead the NL, and the majors, in most pitching categories. They hit for power up and down the lineup, have a decent batting average, the starting pitching, even behind ace Clayton Kershaw, and when those guys come out of the game, the bullpen is better. They won't beat you with speed, but they don't have to when every hitter in the lineup can put the ball over the outfield wall on a regular basis.
And oh yeah, Kershaw. This guy, as has been the case during most of his career, is on another planet. He is 14-2 with a 2.18 ERA. The Dodgers have won 14 straight games that Kershaw has started, and the left hander traditionally gets better in the second half of the season. MLB Network had this note—before the break, Kershaw lifetime has a 2.57 ERA and a .681 winning percentage. After the break? A 2.04 ERA and a winning percentage of .711. When his team scores four or more runs for him, he is 95-0!
The Dodgers are on a pace to win 109 games this year. With an almost certain guarantee, that's not going to happen. But if the Dodgers cool down, and only go 39-33 in their final 72 games, they'll still win a hundred. Playing .500 ball the rest of the year would net them 97 victories, and likely their fifth straight division title. Let's not get too cocky, but printing playoff tickets now would probably be a safe bet. You can probably say that for the Astros as well. Once the teams get to the post-season, it's a whole new ball game, but as the season takes a pause, it's worth pondering that this year's edition of the Dodgers could be something special.
The worm turns: On the final day before the All-Star break last year, the San Francisco Giants became the team with the best record. Madison Bumgarner took a no-hitter into the ninth inning, and the Dodger's Kershaw was on the disabled list. This year, Bumgarner was on the DL, Kershaw pitched a complete-game gem, and the Dodgers have the best record.
Blast-off: In a exhibition that saw long balls hit a roof, windows, and that giant Pachinko-like sculpture in the outfield several times, this year's home run derby lived up to its hype. Defending champion and home-town star Giancarlo Stanton didn't get out of the first round, but it wasn't for lack of effort. Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez won the individual matchup, but each had prodigious power. Yankee rookie outfielder and Sacramento area native (Linden) Aaron Judge won it—defeating Dodger rookie Cody Bellinger in the semifinals, and then Minnesota's Miguel Sano for the championship.
Check your local listings: It was so strange to watch a home run derby without hearing the back-back-back sounds of veteran ESPN broadcaster Chris Berman. The Worldwide Leader offered no explanation for his absence, other than a previous announcement that Berman's duties were being cut back. Karl Ravech, Jessica Mendoza, and Mark Teixeira had the call... Baseball's network coverage continues to make no sense. After weeks of 'Baseball Night in America' at the weird Pacific Time start of 4:15pm on Fox, the Saturday games disappear for awhile. There will be no Fox game this Saturday, and the broadcasts will be sporadic for the rest of the regular season. Also, TBS, which will carry all National League playoff games this year, began it's Sunday game of the week telecasts the day before All-Star break. They gave us Pirates-Cubs, and it's not their fault the game was over early when Pittsburgh scored 10 runs in the first inning... Watching the TBS game Sunday, they were promoting their game next week as Yankees vs. Red Sox. Watching the ESPN game Sunday night, they were promoting their game next week as Yankees vs. Red Sox. It turns out they are both right. The two teams are playing a day-night doubleheader to make up an April 25 rainout.
Where there's Smoak, there's Fiers: Houston TV announcers missed out on the potential word play three times Friday night (the broadcast aired on MLB Network) when Toronto All-Star Justin Smoak faced Astros pitcher Mike Fiers. Smoak was 0-for-3—not exactly the intense heat one would expect from such a matchup.
Non All-Star good stories: Sunday's Oakland A's pitcher Chris Smith made his first major league start at age 36—a franchise record. He gave them a quality start, going six innings and giving up three runs. He didn't get the win, but his team did... Rockies pitcher and Denver area native Kyle Freeland almost became the first Rockies pitcher to throw a no-hitter, but lost it with one out in the ninth inning. Former Dodger Hideo Nomo remains the only one to pitch a no-hitter at Coors Field... During the Cubs carnage that turned out to be a 14-3 defeat by the Pirates on Sunday, pitcher Dylan Floro got in the game for Joe Maddon for some mop-up duty. He allowed just one run and two hits in three and a third innings. Floro is a former Gold Sox opponent and is also the brother of Gold Sox alum Brock Floro.
Mixed emotions on July Fourth for me. My cousins threw a great party at my late uncle's house in Burbank—potentially one last bash before they sell the home, which was stipulated in my uncle's will. It was great fun, and there were relatives I haven't seen in a long time, which made it more special. That same day, however, my mom's parakeet, which was given to her by Uncle Marty over a decade ago, died. Needless to say, mom is devastated, but somehow appropriate that the two events go together. The bird was old, and seemed to be both blind and deaf in its final weeks. I guess timing is everything.