94 games into the season, the Dodgers can’t really complain about where they find themselves at the break.
After constantly huddling around 6-8 games behind in the division, the Dodgers closed the first half by winning 17 of their final 22 games to pull within just 2.5 games of the division lead.
Of course, a large portion of that comeback is owed to the return of Hanley Ramirez and emergence of Yasiel Puig — the two bats that have fueled the recent outburst while hitting nearly .400.
While the comeback remains the freshest story in peoples’ minds, the one that remains the most interesting is that of injuries.
All of this has been done despite the loss of Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett for the year, along with the significant injuries that sidelined Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Zack Greinke, Hanley Ramirez and Mark Ellis for extended periods of time.
Now just imagine what this team will do once they get more healthy.
Another major storyline that is developing is the addition of Ricky Nolasco to the rotation — a move badly needed after seeing the likes of Chris Capuano and Matt Magill all-too-often in the first half.
Nolasco was dominant in his first start in blue, but struggled a bit in his homecoming at Dodger Stadium earlier this week.
All in all, it’s hard to say this half was anything but acceptable.
Sure, the high-priced Dodgers didn’t light the world on fire with one of the best records in baseball, but they’re in the hunt — which is exactly where they need to be.
If the Dodgers can build on the momentum gained from closing the first half out strong — including winning 14 of their last 18 within the division — every team in the national league has reason to be scared.
Another big “if” is whether the Dodgers can get anything from Matt Kemp.
While the offense has done fine without him, the presence of yet another world-class bat would be a lethal addition to a lineup that already features Puig, Ramirez and the amazingly consistent Adrian Gonzalez.
On the pitching side, the prognosis is mostly encouraging.
For what seems like the 20th straight year, Clayton Kershaw has been nothing short of spectacular — leading the entire league in ERA (1.98) and WHIP (0.91).
Behind Kershaw has been Hyun-Jin Ryu, the Korean rookie who has a 3.09 ERA in his first 18 starts as a pro; and Zack Greinke, who has been marvelous lately, allowing just four hits and zero runs in his last 16 innings while striking out 16.
The biggest question mark moving forward remains the team’s bullpen — a unit that has been disastrous by all measures thus far.
The good news is that over the recent hot streak, manager Don Mattingly seems to have figured out a way to use this group effectively.
With the emergence of Paco Rodriguez alongside veterans Kenley Jansen, JP Howell and Ronald Bellisario, the Dodgers have the makings of what could be a solid core of relievers.
Youngsters Jose Dominguez and Chris Withrow offer some hard-throwing right handers if need be, while the ever-mercurial Brandon League remains a mystery.
Despite all of the ups and downs, the Dodgers are right in the thick of things, and while a 47-47 record may not be what they had hoped for, all that matters is that they’ve put themselves in a position to make a run.
Whether or not they do, however, remains to be seen.