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.
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.