Dodgers Hitting Their Stride Halfway Through Season
On the birthday of the late great Los Angeles icon Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Dodgers slugged seven home runs to complete a sweep of Colorado Rockies. At 22-8, the Dodgers have completed half of their regular season schedule and lead the San Diego Padres by four games in the NL West. The boys in blue have now won 11 of their last 12 contests and look ready to run away with the division.
-Corey HR on the 8th pitch
-Mookie HR on the 42nd pitch (Kobe’s birthday today)
-Kiké HR on the 62nd pitch (Kobe’s 62 points vs. Mavs)
-Cody’s 8th homer and his 24th hit
-11-3 win vs. Rockies (win by 8)
Kobe was here. pic.twitter.com/34Asm1Od0I
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) August 24, 2020
Sunday’s beatdown was the third of an eventful weekend for the club against Colorado. In Friday’s opener, Walker Buehler looked like his usual self for the first time this season. He notched 11 strikeouts in six innings en route to a 5-1 win. On Saturday night, Cody Bellinger launched a walkoff homerun in the ninth inning to secure a 4-3 win in an otherwise quiet game offensively. Then on Sunday afternoon, Mookie Betts hit two of the team’s seven home runs in a loud 11-3 victory.
Less than two weeks ago, the Rockies had worked their way to a 12-5 record. A game and a half ahead of the Dodgers, Colorado looked poised to compete in the divisional race. This weekend’s series, the first meeting between the two clubs on the year, was circled as a potentially crucial three games early on in the season. The recent stretch of play by both clubs had somewhat diminished the allure of the match-up. Colorado had lost seven of eight games and the Dodgers, on a run of their own, had won eight of nine. Nonetheless, the Dodgers flexed their muscles and powered their way to a sweep of Colorado, extending their division lead.
There were a number of good signs for the Dodgers this weekend. Perhaps the most important development came from the aforementioned Walker Buehler who had been struggling with his command this season but appeared to be in top form on Friday. After allowing a total of eight walks in his first three starts, Buehler was thrilled to pair his 11 strikeouts with zero free passes.
The offense, on the other hand, is also starting to kick into high gear. Last year’s NL MVP Cody Bellinger continued to heat up, going 4-10 with two home runs, including Saturday’s walk-off. Bellinger has increased his batting average nearly 40 points in the last five games to where it now sits at .211. Max Muncy, another struggling former all-star, also had four hits over the weekend, including a home run on Sunday.
The team’s response in Saturday’s tight game was another positive sign. The bullpen conceded just one earned run in four innings of work and Cody Bellinger ended the game quickly and efficiently, homering on the second pitch of the ninth. Coming into the series, the Dodgers had a record of 3-4 in one-run games, an alarming number for a team of their caliber. Winning close games like this will play a large role in navigating the long season and having confidence going into the playoffs.
Expectations for the Dodgers were incredibly high coming into the 2020 season. For the most part, the team has lived up to the hype. In fact, run differential and slow starts from their stars indicate that the club has actually underachieved. They have the most runs scored per game (5.70) and the lowest team ERA (2.65) in all of baseball. At the halfway mark, it would appear that all of the pieces are in place for another divisional title run.
After Cody Bellinger’s walkoff home run, manager Dave Roberts yelled out “social distance!” while the awkwardly quiet and fanless celebration ensued. Similarly but for reasons other than public health, the Dodgers will be looking to distance themselves from the rest of the National League in the coming weeks and seal the top spot they currently hold. If the last two weeks’ body of work are any indication, they shouldn’t have too much trouble doing that.
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