First-Place Dodgers Best Team in Baseball

The Dodgers have gone from 9 1/2 games back to first place in exactly one month by putting the best team in baseball on the field. Carl Crawford has returned from injury to step into the leadoff role, and Monday has his second straight three-hit game as the Dodgers blasted the Toronto Blue Jays 14-5 behind one of their four dominant starting pitchers (Hyun-Jin Ryu, 8-3, 3.25). The Dodgers have outscored opponents by 47 runs in the past month, more than twice the margin of the Cardinals:

Backs vs. RS RA Lead Date Dodgers vs. RS RA
Cincinnati 2 4 8.5 Sun, Jun 23 San Diego 3 1
Off     8 Mon, Jun 24 San Francisco 3 1
Washington 5 7 7 Tue, Jun 25 San Francisco 6 5
Washington 2 3 6 Wed, Jun 26 San Francisco 4 2
Washington 3 2 6 Thu, Jun 27 Philadelphia 6 4
Atlanta 1 3 6 Fri, Jun 28 Philadelphia 1 16
Atlanta 5 11 5 Sat, Jun 29 Philadelphia 4 3
Atlanta 2 6 4 Sun, Jun 30 Philadelphia 6 1
NY Mets 4 5 3.5 Mon, Jul 1 Off    
NY Mets 1 9 2.5 Tue, Jul 2 Colorado 8 1
NY Mets 5 3 2.5 Wed, Jul 3 Colorado 10 8
NY Mets 5 4 3.5 Thu, Jul 4 Colorado 5 9
Colorado 5 1 3.5 Fri, Jul 5 San Francisco 10 2
Colorado 11 1 4.5 Sat, Jul 6 San Francisco 2 4
Colorado 6 1 4.5 Sun, Jul 7 San Francisco 4 1
LA Dodgers 1 6 3.5 Mon, Jul 8 Arizona 6 1
LA Dodgers 1 6 2.5 Tue, Jul 9 Arizona 6 1
LA Dodgers 5 7 1.5 Wed, Jul 10 Arizona 7 5
Milwaukee 5 3 1.5 Thu, Jul 11 Colorado 6 1
Milwaukee 2 1 2.5 Fri, Jul 12 Colorado 1 3
Milwaukee 5 4 2.5 Sat, Jul 13 Colorado 1 0
Milwaukee 1 5 2.5 Sun, Jul 14 Colorado 1 3
San Francisco 1 2 1.5 Fri, Jul 19 Washington 3 2
San Francisco 3 4 0.5 Sat, Jul 20 Washington 3 1
San Francisco 3 1 0.5 Sun, Jul 21 Washington 9 2
Cubs 2 4 -0.5 Mon, Jul 22 Toronto 14 5
Backs Runs 86 103   Total Dodgers Runs 129 82

The team struggled early with closer Brandon League (5.88 ERA), but Kenley Jansen has stepped into the closer role and during the month has allowed only two runs and struck out 20 in 13.1 innings to record eight saves. 

For the season, the Cardinals still have by far the best differential in baseball with a +129, but in the past month they have been a +23. The Dodgers were a -48 when the streak started, but that was playing without three players who hit .400 for much of the year in Hanley Ramirez (still hitting .393), Yasiel Puig (still at .364) and pitcher Zack Greinke has actually pinch hit and is now batting .402.

Crawford has struggled the past couple of years with injuries, but appears healthy for the first time in years and has raised his average to .284 while leading the team with 10 stolen bases. He had three hits Sunday in a 9-2 win over the Nationals, and his 3-hit performance Monday helped the Dodgers win 14-5 to end the night with one more run scored than allowed this season.

The addition of Marlins ace Ricky Nolasco (2.96 ERA in four July starts) completes a potentially dominant playoff rotation with Ryu, Greinke (8-2, 3.36, .402 batting average), and statistically the best starting pitcher in the game in Clayton Kershaw (2.01 ERA in 152.1 innings).

As much as the Dodgers were mocked for the high payroll when they were 9 1/2 games out, the team they have on the field right now is the best in baseball.


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