Losing streaks, offensive droughts, twice being swept by the rival San Francisco Giants, season-ending injuries to two-fifths of the starting rotation, and yet the Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves with a three-game lead over the Giants for first place in the National League West entering play Friday.
The Dodgers endured a difficult stretch of 34 games in 34 days, finished 15-15 in the month of June and 6-4 on their 10-game road trip that concluded Wednesday. When asked if he believed the Dodgers were essentially stuck in place spinning their wheels, Howie Kendrick said he’s comfortable with where the team is, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
I think we’re running in the right place,” he said. “Any time you stay where you’re at and still are on top of the division — maybe we didn’t play the greatest baseball, but you feel good knowing we’re going to play better baseball. The second half is when you make a serious push.”
The Dodgers’ struggles against teams over .500, most notably the Giants and St. Louis Cardinals has garnered plenty of attention and criticism. Though it should be noted Los Angeles won the regular season series against the aforementioned clubs last season only to be knocked out in the NL Division Series by the Cardinals, who then lost to the eventual World Series champion Giants.
Additionally, the Dodgers bullpen has been a major upgrade. Gone are former closers, most recently Brandon League, who struggled to excel in changed roles; in is a healthy combination of veterans and young relievers. That’s not to say the bullpen has been perfect, but no team can lay claim to that.
As for Kendrick, he hasn’t skipped a beat in making the jump out of the American League. He’s batting .298/.350/.428, all of which are increases from last season, and already matched his 2014 home run total of seven. Kendrick also has 36 RBIs, which puts him on pace to surpass the 75 runs batted in last season.
Friday’s game against the New York Mets is the Dodgers’ 81st played this season, which puts them squarely at the halfway mark. Including Friday’s matchup the Dodgers have 10 games remaining until the All-Star break — the proverbial midway point of the season. They were 45-36 through 81 games in 2014 and 54-43, leading the Giants by half a game heading into the break.