The Los Angeles Dodgers appreciate what they have accomplished.
The Dodgers’ 61-29 record is the best in the major leagues. With 26 wins in 30 games since June 7, the Dodgers have given themselves a sizeable cushion in what had been a tight National League West race as they hold a 7.5-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“It’s been the best half I’ve ever been a part of,” ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw said, “but it’s just a half.”
Enough October heartbreak over the years has built scar tissue, preventing the Dodgers from getting too excited. Though they have won four straight NL West titles and been to the postseason eight times in a 13-year span since 2004, the Dodgers have not reached the World Series since 1988 when they beat the Oakland Athletics.
Last year, the Dodgers lost to the eventual World Series champion Chicago Cubs in the NLCS in six games.
“The one thing that really stands about us, other than our record, is our ability to really to just stay in the moment and worry about what is going on right now,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said. “We’ve been playing great and we just enjoy each win. We don’t really worry about what happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow.”
Added to the solid mental approach is a talented and well-rounded roster that included Kershaw and Turner playing for the NL in this week’s All-Star Game at Miami, joined by four teammates — left-hander Alex Wood, closer Kenley Jansen, rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger and shortstop Corey Seager.
Bellinger is likely to win the NL Rookie of the Year award after Seager won it in 2016. Bellinger, 22, is hitting .261/.342/.619 with 25 home runs in 70 games.
However, just as important in the mind of many Dodgers is that management re-signed Jansen, Turner, left-hander Rich Hill and infielder Chase Utley in free agency last winter at a total cost of $191 million.
“We brought back our core,” Seager said. “You’ve played with these guys for two years. You know what to expect from them. You can’t say enough about that.”
The Dodgers are fourth in the major leagues in runs with an average of 5.14 a game and third in runs allowed with a 3.33 average. Yet they are looking to bolster the roster before the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline, including eyeing a potential deal for Baltimore Orioles left-hander reliever Zach Britton, an idea Jansen endorsed to FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman.
“I’ve been here 10 years and we’ve done something to make our team better every year, so I imagine this year will be no different,” Kershaw said.
An executive from an NL team believes Thursday’s blockbuster trade between the two Chicago teams will benefit both sides.
“The Cubs needed help now and they got it and the White Sox got a couple of more potential building blocks for the future,” the executive said. “Both sides are a winner, the way I see it.”
Left-hander Jose Quintana should provide a big boost to a wobbly Cubs’ rotation. Right-handers Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey are on the disabled list while left-hander Jon Lester and righty Jake Arrieta have both pitched bellowed their usual lofty standards a year following the franchise’s first World Series title since 1908.
“I think Quintana will get a bump in two ways,” the executive said. “It’s easier to pitch in the National League than the American League and he’ll be going into an environment where there are expectations to win. He’s pitched well for a long time with the White Sox but hasn’t pitched in any important games or been rewarded record-wise. That wears on a pitcher.”
The White Sox, meanwhile, received highly regarded outfielder Eloy Jimenez and right-hander Dylan Cease plus two other prospects.
“Both have a really good chance to be impact major leaguers, particularly Jimenez,” the executive said. “They only add to an impressive group of prospects in that organization.”
The Cleveland Indians knew they had nothing to complain about in getting five players on the AL All-Star roster: Right-hander Corey Kluber, left-handed reliever Andrew Miller, third baseman Jose Ramirez, shortstop Francisco Lindor and left fielder Michael Brantley.
However, the AL Central-leading Indians’ contingent was quite disappointed not to be joined by righty Carlos Carrasco. He is 10-3 with a 3.44 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 17 starts.
“He’s been one of the best pitchers in the league all season long and we wouldn’t be in first place without him,” Lindor said. “We were all disappointed he didn’t get picked. It’s a little hard to understand. He’s been the glue to the rotation all season long when we’ve had injuries (to Kluber and righty Danny Salazar).”
Has any pitcher had a better start to his career in recent years and received less notice than Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Jacob Faria?
The 23-year-old has gone 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in six starts since being called up from Triple-A Durham on June 7. A 10th-round draft pick in 2011 following his senior year of high school in Cerritos, Calif., Faria hasn’t been as hyped as other rookies but has quickly become a key man for a contending team.
“I don’t think what he’s done is a surprise to any of us who watched him in the minor leagues,” said Durham right-hander Brent Honeywell, who was the MVP of the All-Star Futures Game last Sunday. “He’s got good stuff, knows how to pitch and doesn’t get rattled. We all knew when he got called up that he was ready to go up there and win.”
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