When a Major League Baseball season gets underway in April (now late March), it is said that it's too early to tell how good teams are until Memorial Day. As the summer winds down,you know who the contenders are, but the stretch run doesn't begin until Labor Day. If that's true, the Los Angeles Dodgers picked the right time to climb back on top of the National League West. It's Labor Day.
If you back the calendar up just ten days, the Dodgers were trailing the Arizona Diamondbacks by 4½ games. They had just been swept three straight at home by the surging St. Louis Cardinals, but knew they had to take care of business against the non-contending San Diego Padres at home, and then a quick two-game trip to Arlington against the lowly Texas Rangers, before a big showdown four-game set with the D-Backs at Dodger Stadium. For the first time, fans in southern California were starting to take longer glimpses at the wild card standings, thinking maybe that would be the Dodgers' ticket to post-season play.
Manager Dave Roberts' crew took care of business. They won five straight—sweeping the Padres and the Rangers, and entered Thursday night a game behind Arizona for first place. Robbie Ray out-dueled Rich Hill, David Peralta hit a three-run homer in the sixth inning, and Arizona won it 3-1. How's that wild card race doing?
While the final score was 3-1, the Dodgers would win 3-2 each of the next three nights. Friday, Kike Hernandez homered to tie it, setting up a Justin Turner homer that ended up winning it. Pass the baton to Matt Kemp, please. Kemp hit a three-run shot in the eighth inning Saturday which would be the game-winner, and would tie the two teams for first place. Sunday, for the division lead, down 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth with runners at first and second and one out, Kemp hit one over the center fielder, both runners scored, and the Dodgers took sole possession of first place on the walkoff double.
The Arizona loss actually dropped the Diamondbacks to third place, because the Colorado Rockies won on Sunday and were sandwiched in between LA and Arizona. In fact, for a short time after the Rockies beat San Diego, there was a three-way tie for first because the Dodger game wasn't over yet. The Dodgers picked up 5½ game in 8 days.
It's September. It's Labor Day. The Dodgers are in first, but there's a still a month of some crazy baseball to go. And down the stretch we come!
Don't forget about the Rockies: Just before we're ready to hit the 'send' button and publish this literary drivel to the worldwide web, the Dodgers lost 4-2 to the Mets tonight (Kemp grounded into a double play to end the game), Arizona fell to San Diego, and Colorado defeated the Giants 9-8. Yes, that means even though on Labor Day morning the Dodgers were in first place, now that Labor Day is over, the Rockies are on top.
Broadcaster's dictionary: Angels Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani pitched for the first time in about three months Sunday, and hurt himself, although not badly, by trying to field a ball with his bare hand. When the ball went off of his fingertips, Angels radio analyst Mark Langston said even though they are told not to, pitchers will “instinctually” reach for it. Hopefully Langston isn't Ohtani's English language tutor.
Roster expansion: I think I'm onto something here, but I don't know the best way to get my message to the commissioner. From now until the end of the month, if you listen to or watch games, you will hear ad nauseum about teams being able to expand rosters to up to 40 players, after playing five months with only be allowed to use 25 players. My solution is not that radical, but a little bit different. Several people have suggested having up to 40 players, but only 25 active. How about instead, you can have 40 players active, but once you use 25 of them, that's it. In other words, if you want to go to the bullpen 12 times, great, or if you feel you need to have a pinch-runner for the left-handed pinch-hitter that batted for the right-handed pinch-hitter, that's fine too, as long as you don't go over 25. I got the idea from World Cup soccer, where they have a roster of 23 guys, but after their starting 11, are only allowed to make three substitutions per game. That's a lot for a coach to pick from, and leaves a lot of guys on the bench, but still participating in the biggest sporting event in the world.