Amazingly, the Los Angeles Dodgers managed to reach the All Star break with the best record in the National League–yes, the BEST record in the entire National League. Given all of the injury issues (e.g. Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-jin Ryu, Hanley Ramirez, Juan Uribe, Carl Crawford, A.J. Ellis, etc.), the persistent outfield logjam concerns, and the Time Warner SportsNet LA drama in the background–all obstacles that the Dodgers had faced before even reaching the All Star break–being in first place was quite the accomplishment. That unlikely accomplishment begs the question–how did the Dodgers ‘survive and advance’? Well, it all came down to the record-setting pitching staff, and specifically, the starting rotation.
Now 10 days into the second half of the season, the Dodgers enter their game tonight in San Francisco against the Giants, on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball, with a chance to remain in first place in the National League West, as well as to maintain the best record in the National League (although they would be tied with the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals). During the first game of this series, Zack Greinke went seven strong innings, limiting the Giants to four hits, while striking out 10 batters, and the Dodgers won easily, 8-1. In Saturday evening’s game, Clayton Kershaw threw a ‘ho hum’ two-hitter, striking out seven batters along the way, and the Dodgers won 5-0. The Dodgers’ third best starter, Hyun-jin Ryu, takes the mound Sunday night.
So what was so special about the Dodgers’ starting rotation in the first half of the season? Let’s take a quick look at some of the records they amassed:
- Kershaw: after Saturday’s game, he now holds a 1.40 ERA in his career against the Giants, which is the lowest ERA for any pitcher versus a single opponent in the last 100 seasons (with a minimum of 20 starts);
- Kershaw: his streak of 41 consecutive scoreless innings is third all-time behind Orel Hershiser (59 innings), and Brandon Webb (42 innings), in the Divisional Era (since 1969);
- Kershaw: joined Bob Gibson (1971) and Sandy Koufax (1964) as only reigning Cy Young Award winners to throw no-hitter;
- Greinke: most consecutive starts (dating back to 2013) allowing two earned runs or less (22);
- Starting rotation: two walks or fewer in 39 straight starts is longest streak of its kind since 1900.
Clearly, the Dodgers still have issues to work out. Dan Haren has been the ‘ugly duckling’ of the starting rotation for several weeks now, and the Dodgers have been seriously considering going after another top-flight starting pitcher like David Price or Jon Lester. Matt Kemp’s agent has been pushing for a change of scenery, but his huge contract makes it difficult for the Dodgers to work out a suitable trade. And, of course, most Dodgers fans still can’t watch their team play on TV. All of that being said, the Dodgers are in first place heading into Sunday night’s game, and they have a chance to remain tied for the best record in the National League. If that’s their worst-case scenario with ALL of the obstacles they’ve faced thus far, that’s pretty darn good!