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Dodgers Keep Winning, Try To Stay Grounded
For weeks I was looking forward to this Dodgers-Rays matchup. I thought it was going to be a great test against a team that is fighting for their AL East lives, the team whose frugal approach is a 180-degree approach from the Dodgers free-spending ways.
It looked like it was going to be a tough series for the Dodgers when they stared a 6-0 deficit going into the seventh inning stretch of Friday's game facing off against David Price. Then came the epic comeback, and from that point on the Dodgers have been stepped on the Rays' throats. After winning the Saturday afternoon game 5-0, the Dodgers beat up on the Rays again 8-2 for the sweep with Clayton Kershaw on the mound.
There are two possibilities here. Perhaps I have overestimated the Rays. The fact they are fighting with the Boston Red Sox for the AL East title may have me swayed for this little team that could. Or maybe the Dodgers are just this good.
The facts are quite astounding:
- The Dodgers are 20-3 since the All Star Break.
- They Dodgers are 37-8 in their last 45 games.
- The last team to have as good of a stretch were the 1977 Kansas City Royals who also went 37-8 from Aug. 17 to Sept. 30, 1977.
- The last NL team to have good of a stretch were the 1953 Dodgers who also went 37-8 from July 19 (2) to Sept. 1, 1953.
- The Dodgers have been unbeated in their last 15 series (11-0-4) since losing two of three game at the Pittsburgh Pirates from June 14-16.
- The Dodgers clinched their first winning season in Interleague Play going 11-6, their first since going 10-8 in 2004.
- The Dodgers have a 7 1/2 game lead in the NL West.
Despite all of this, the Dodgers are trying as hard as they can to not let it get to their heads.
"It's a good feeling, but I keep trying to turn the page," manager Don Mattingly said.
Mark Ellis, the 36-year old second baseman, knows better than to succumb to the moment. "You can be humbled the next day in baseball," he said. "It's one of those games you can never get cocky."
Despite some of the younger players coming up like Yasiel Puig, Chris Withrow and Tim Federowicz, Ellis doesn't feel the need to keep everyone level.
"We're a very veteran team," Ellis said. "We've just got keep moving forward. There are a lot of guys with World Series rings on this team, a lot of playoff experience on this team. We know what we need to do."
What the Dodgers needed to do in this game was score some runs. Despite having the best pitcher in baseball, the Dodgers had lost his last two starts and have scored three runs in his last three starts.
"We need to change that," manager Don Mattingly said before the game.
Kershaw didn't seem to want to rely on his teammates for this mythical run support. After Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis led off the second inning with singles against Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson, Kershaw lined a two-out single to right field to score Ethier and Ellis for the 2-0 Dodger lead.
"It was a fun night," Kershaw said.
Yasiel Puig added a run in the third coming home on A.J. Ellis' fly ball after leading off the inning with a double, Adrian Gonzalez doubled home two in the fourth and Mark Ellis hit a two-run homer in the sixth off of rapist and Rays reliever Josh Lueke.
Meanwhile Kershaw continued to do what he does on the mound going eight innings while striking out eight. He lowered his ERA to a Major League leading 1.88. But there he was talking about not being able to get his curveball over for strikes. "But I got some swings when I needed to. It got some big outs for me."
The Dodgers will finish up this homestand with three games against the New York Mets before heading on the road with three games against the Philadelphia Phillies and four against the Miami Marlins.
While the Dodgers have to keep their heads on straight, as observers it's hard not to think of the future, particularly what will happen two months from now.
Rays Scorecard: (click to embiggen)
Dodgers Scorecard: (click to embiggen)