Are you impatient that the Dodgers are barely hugging first place in the National League West, let alone struggling to put more distance between themselves and the Diamondbacks, Rockies and Giants?
Given that the Dodgers’ half-game division lead today exactly matches their advantage on July 12, the easy conclusion is that Los Angeles is running in place. On top of that, the Dodgers’ longest winning streak this year is five games, from June 10-June 16, and they haven’t had even a four-game winning streak since July 1-4. Where did all the big mo go?
Check the bigger picture, and you’ll find it.
Since the All-Star break, the Dodgers are in a stretch of 23 consecutive games against winning teams — 16 of them on the road. (That does not include the Angels, who had a winning record when they lost two of three to the Dodgers right before the break.) If the 57-58 Giants can creep above .500 before the Dodgers arrive in San Francisco this weekend, it will mean that the Dodgers will have go from July 12 through August 24 without playing a losing team. You shouldn’t be too disappointed if during that time, the Dodgers aren’t completely dominant.
Since the break, the Dodgers are 10-8 against their all-winners slate. matching the Diamondbacks (10-8) and effectively the Cubs (11-9), and a half-game ahead of the Rockies (9-8). Philadelphia (11-7) has the NL’s best record since the break by one game, though they have played 11 of those 18 games against last-place teams, going 7-4 against the Padres, Reds and Marlins.
Looking at things more broadly, the Dodgers have had the best record in the NL for the past three months (48-31) and have been playing .600 ball for their past 80 games. Since beginning the season 16-26, the Dodgers have outpaced the NL by 3 1/2 games, and while it’s fine if you don’t want to write off the first quarter of the season, it’s clear that the Dodgers have been surging for quite a while now.
Despite lacking that big winning streak, the Dodgers are playing .653 ball over their past 72 games — a 106-win pace. That doesn’t make them as formidable as the ridiculously hot Red Sox (who benefit a bit from a bottom-heavy American League), but it paints the opposite picture of a Dodger team treading water.
In the NL, 10 of 15 teams have winning records, and given the intensity of their rivalry with the Dodgers, the Giants might as well be an 11th. As a result, Los Angeles never really has an easy stretch in its remaining schedule. In fact, the only time the Dodgers will have played consecutive series against losing teams from July 1 through the end of the year is August 24-29 against the Padres and Rangers. So the season may well continue to be a grind for the Dodgers, even if they continue to roll out wins at a steady rate.
Within the division, the Dodgers have a total of six games remaining against the Giants, but 10 with the pesky Rockies (seven at Coors Field), who are only 2 1/2 games out of first place. Perhaps most critically, the Dodgers have seven remaining games with the Diamondbacks, against whom Los Angeles is 4-8 this year.
Sure, a long winning streak would be nice, but Dodger fans might not ever get that big cushion they’re looking for. Right now, keeping one step ahead of the competition counts for real achievement. We’ll worry about style points — and the World Series — later.