Dodgers Look to Be on the Brink of a Breakout

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Apr 29, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner (10) celebrates with his team after hitting a solo home run against the Philadelphia Phillies during the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 29, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner (10) celebrates with his team after hitting a solo home run against the Philadelphia Phillies during the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports /
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After a slow start to the season, things are starting to look up again for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Last week Evan Shin wrote an article on why Dodgers’ fans should not have been panicking due to the team’s slow start. Los Angeles has been known for getting off to slow starts in three of the last four seasons (not 2015). 2013 and 2016 required the Dodgers to get hot mid-season (along with collapses from the NL West leaders at the time) and 2014 saw them tread around .500 for the first 60 games.

It’s always a risky way to go about your business but hey, when you are a team as talented as these Dodgers have been, it’s only a matter of time before things go your way.

The Dodgers started last week off with a 9-10 record, injuries piling up (again), three-fifths of the rotation looking bad, and a dormant offense. So it’s no surprise that many fans were panicking, saying the season was over and the team was over-hyped or plain bad, while calling for Andrew Friedman and Co.’s heads. Well, a week can sure change a lot.

The Dodgers went 5-2 during their seven games this past week including a sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies. Cesar Becerra alluded to it before the weekend, of how a sweep against the Phillies would help salvage an otherwise disappointing month.

The rotation, which was looking extremely shaky a week ago, has settled down for the time being. Since and including last Sunday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks (eight games in total), the starters have thrown 49 innings and have accumulated an excellent 2.02 ERA in that span. They are starting to go deeper into games, which is much-needed, and Hyun-jin Ryu and Kenta Maeda may be starting to turn a corner (fingers crossed).

The arms are looking so good that manager Dave Roberts is going to be sticking with a six-man rotation for the time being because it would be hard to single out one pitcher to remove from the rotation right now. Clayton Kershaw (duh) and Julio Urias are locks, while Brandon McCarthy deserves to stay in as well. Ryu has allowed just two runs over his last 11.1 innings, Alex Wood is coming off a scoreless six-inning outing, and Maeda looked sharp in his last start.

Throw in the fact that Rich Hill is getting closer to a return, and you have a real logjam; seems like a good problem to have. However, you have to remember that there’s no guarantee, because of their track record, that Ryu, McCarthy, Wood, or Hill will stay healthy.

Talking about getting closer to returning, Logan Forsythe and Joc Pederson are expected to rejoin the Dodgers for this weekend’s series against the San Diego Padres. Hopefully they can add to an offense that might finally be waking up. LA scored 16 runs during the weekend, including seven home runs in the last two games. Forsythe and Joc can only help.

Before his DL stint, Forsythe was doing his job against lefties, hitting .429/.539/.524 in 26 plate appearances against them. Pederson is due to come out from his early season slump, and I feel the quick trip to the DL may actually help him.

Franklin Gutierrez is also close to returning, as he has been rehabbing with the Dodgers’ minor league affiliate the RC Quakes for a few days now.

I have a feeling that his bat will start going once he returns and will aid in the struggles against left-handers.

One negative with the return of the injured players is that Los Angeles will have to make corresponding moves to make roster spots available. Cody Bellinger will be heading back to OKC soon, while Kike Hernandez and Chris Taylor are fighting for a spot. I agree with Michael Wittman’s idea of sending the ineffective Scott Van Slyke down instead of one the two aforementioned super utility players. They are both hitting well and deserve to stay with LA.

The silver lining to this though, would be that Forsythe, Pederson, and Gutierrez will not take their roles on the team for granted. With the hot bats of the guys off the bench, minimal to zero production would be a disaster for any of the trio. I expect the production of, and fanfest with Taylor, Bellinger, and Hernandez to push the soon-to-be-returning trio to their potential. If that’s the case, the offense will become a strength once again.

Corey Seager is playing like Corey Seager, Justin Turner is absolutely balling right now, metrics are pointing to a Yasiel Puig explosion, and Andrew Toles seems to be fighting off his slow start. Toles has six hits in his last 15 at-bats (two home runs) and now leads the Dodgers in dingers with six. Who would have guessed that would have been the case at any point during the season?

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Now we do have to keep things in perspective, so allow me to play devil’s advocate real quick. The Dodgers will still be infected with the injury-bug because that’s always the case with them and they still aren’t good against lefties. The offense needs to hit better with runners in scoring position, the starters need to be good consistently and not just one out of every handful of starts, and they do have a tough schedule coming up.

However, while it is too early to look at the standings, at 14-12 LA is just two games back of the division lead by making up three games this past week alone.

Winners of four straight and six of eight, the awakening of the offense, an improving rotation, returning players from injury, and one of the most talented 25-man squads out there? I may be overreacting but there’s no doubting that things are definitely brighter than they were a week ago.

Next: Appreciate Cody Bellinger These Next Few Days

And it doesn’t hurt that the Dodgers open up the week at home against the rival (and struggling) San Francisco Giants with Clayton Kershaw toeing the rubber.

I feel that things are finally starting to come together, and with the momentum they are riding from their four-game winning streak, Los Angeles will show us the team they actually are and go on a run and soon overtake first place in the division and not look back.

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