With almost two-thirds of the baseball season done, the Los Angeles Dodgers are pushing through the dog days of summer to clinch a spot in the postseason. Going into Sunday, the Dodgers have a three-game lead over their rival, the San Francisco Giants, with a lot of baseball still left to be played.
Although the Dodgers have won the National League West in back-to-back seasons, they have yet to take that step into the baseball elite and with the help of some newly acquired veterans, they have the guys to make the proper adjustments.
The middle of the infield has laid a preceding foundation on how to be successful and to carry themselves everyday in the hectic 162-game season. Howie Kendrick has resembled consistency that the Dodgers need in the lineup, as his numbers thus far into the season are on pace for his career averages. Through 104 games played this season, Kendrick is batting .293/.339/.416, with nine home runs and 49 RBIs.
His double play partner, Jimmy Rollins, has taken an aggressive approach to the second half, as he is hitting .323 in August, and has also reached base consecutively in nine straight games. Through 105 games, Rollins is batting .222/.279/.364, with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs.
When talking about one player, manager Don Mattingly often uses both players as examples of professional athletes who have that important experience, via Kevin Baxter of the LA Times:
When I talk about Jimmy, I always talk about Howie. Because I feel like both of those guys have been here a number of times.”
Many Dodger fans were on board with the acquisition of Rollins, but were quick to hate on the 16-year player after his production at the plate began slipping. The shortstop is a second half player, who knows what to do in pivotal situations and can often produce a clutch hit when needed. The recent offensive surge has been a huge plus, not to mention the productive defense he and Kendrick have brought the Dodgers all season.
Kendrick, the offseason acquisition from the Los Angeles Angels, has been even more productive than Rollins of late. In five of his last six games, Kendrick has had multiple hits, with two RBIs coming in three of those games. Mattingly also commented on what Rollins and Kendrick have brought to the game of baseball, not only on the field:
Him and Howie, both solid up the middle. Solid demeanor, solid in the clubhouse. Just what you want from guys that have been through it, that are not going to panic, not going to let one game affect the next. Just being through it helps.”
The leadership presence that those two bring is exactly what the Dodgers need as they gear up for the postseason. With most of the position players on the roster being from the past two postseason teams, it will be a significant upgrade to see what the veterans can contribute to the demeanor and overall understanding of the Dodgers.