Fresh off taking two of four from surging Atlanta and completing their first three-game home series sweep of St. Louis since 1989, the Los Angeles Dodgers now sit atop the NL West with the National League’s best record.
The Dodgers are coming off playing 16 games in 16 days. During that stretch, they went 11-5, with five of those wins coming against teams that are either in first place or were in first before facing the Dodgers. Five of those remaining six wins came against division opponents, including a sweep of the lowly Diamondbacks. They are 36-24(good for a .600 winning percentage), which is better than a Braves team that dominated the month of May, a Cardinals team that possesses two of the best 1-2 punches in sluggers Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday and hurlers Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter, and a Phillies team that came into the season as the early favorites to win their third straight National League title.
Pretty good, if you ask me. Here’s what’s most impressive of the Dodgers’ climb up the National League mountain: They’ve done with very little production from their $19 million man, slugger Manny Ramirez. Man-Ram has been non-existent this season, hitting a decent .281 with a measly five home runs and 28 RBIs. Yes, Manny missed some time with a leg strain, but it wasn’t like he was tearing the cover off the ball before hand. Most sluggers spend their contract year raking the ball in hopes of conning their team(or another team) into paying big money for the previous season’s production(much like Manny did two years ago when he came to L.A. from Boston midseason). Instead, Ramirez has let all the naysayers who believe his power numbers early on in L.A. were attributed to performance-enhancing substances have a field day. It took Ramirez 127 at-bats just to hit his fifth homer of the season(which came last night off of Wainwright). Last season, he got to five home runs in 77 at-bats, just before he was banned for 50 games for violating baseball’s drug policy. Coincidence? I think not. Three of Ramirez’s three home runs have come in the last 13 games(which may be a sign he’s starting to get back into the swing of things) after hitting two in the first 29.
Here’s where things get interesting for, not only Ramirez, but the Dodgers as well. After they take on the Angels for three games in a battle of L.A. supremacy, the Dodgers will go on the road to Cincinnati to take on the now-first place Reds. That’s not the series of concern, though. After they finish with the Reds, the Dodgers travel to Boston for Manny’s long-awaited return to face the franchise he helped win two World Series for before their much-publicized breakup: The Boston Red Sox. Given the way things ended, it will be interesting to see how Red Sox Nation treats their once-beloved left fielder. Shortly after that series, Manny gets to be reacquainted with the team he dominated for years while in Boston: Dodgers manager Joe Torre’s old ballclub, the New York Yankees.
So, for those scoring at home, the Dodgers will spend the next 15 games against teams that are either in first place(Reds, Yankees) or still in the first place hunt(including six games against the Angels, who are a game back of Oakland in the AL West). The raise in difficulty hasn’t affected the Dodgers so far and the Angels haven’t been quite the same team since top slugger Kendry Morales was lost for the season after breaking his leg during a home run celebration(I wish I was making that up), so they very well could sail through these next few weeks before hosting the Yankees at the end of the month. In the meantime, the Dodgers have established themselves as the best team in the National League, but the key to staying there lies in their much-ballyhooed left fielder’s big bat.
About the Author
Written by Dave Leonardis
Born and raised in New Jersey, I've been writing since I was 10 and blogging since I was 18. I'm a huge sports nerd, following football, baseball and basketball in particular in close detail. My style is very upfront. I don't pull punches and I'm not shy about criticizing anything I feel deserves a proper tongue-lashing. If you're looking for someone who says what he wants, when he wants, then look no further than this guy right here.