Heading into the 2018 season, the NL West was the most dominant division in baseball. Now, in the beginnings of June, the NL West has the closest race for first place; with the San Diego Padres only 5.5 games out of first place.
As the reigning National League Champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers were expected to resemble a World-Series-caliber team. After starting the season with Justin Turner on the disabled list, the Dodgers were at a loss. Both figuratively and physically.
In their first 11 games, the Dodgers were 4-7, with opponents outscoring them by four runs. Not only were key hitters, like Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger, not producing, but the disabled list expanded.
At one point in the early season, three of the four prominent infielders and three of the five pitchers in the starting rotation were on the disabled list at the same time. A team with significant injuries could only win so much.
Throughout 59 games, the Dodgers lowest record reached 10 games under .500, and their longest losing streak snapped at six games. Less than a month ago, the Dodgers were a last-place team as they were nine games out of first place.
But approaching the 60th game of the season, the Dodgers sit two games back from the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Diamondbacks were the hottest team in baseball as they steamed through the competition in the first six weeks of the season. The snakes flirted with history for their 10th consecutive series win in the season when they faced the Dodgers in late April for a four-game series.
Each team took two games in the series, which began the cool down for the Diamondbacks. A series sweep by the Washington National started the 14 losses in a 17-game stretch for the Diamondbacks.
Injuries soon riddled the Diamondbacks.
Three key pieces in a starting rotation led by former Dodger Zack Greinke, Shelby Miller, Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker landed on the disabled list. It only got worse for Arizona as center fielder and best hitter on the team, A.J. Pollock was diagnosed with a broken left thumb and expected to miss four to eight weeks of the season.
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The Colorado Rockies soon took possession of first place, but a $106 million bullpen did not help the mile-high team gain a reasonable lead from the Diamondbacks. The Rockies quickly lost the 1.5 game lead with a loss against the Dodgers and a Diamondbacks win against the Marlins.
As the Dodgers keep an ongoing tie against the Giants for third place in the division, the tide is finally turning.
Since the off-season trade to dump salaries in Atlanta, Matt Kemp is proving his worth to be a contender for the NL MVP. Shedding 40 pounds before spring training turned around the left fielder’s career.
Kemp leads the Dodgers in runs batted in, on-base percentage and hits, and tied for a team-leading nine home runs. Kemp, also, leads the team and National League with a .344 batting average.
Holding down first base, Max Muncy is making himself known. During the final game of the series against the Rockies, Muncy drove in the first four runs of the game with two home runs, to tie Kemp for the club-leading nine home runs.
Consistent quality at-bats from the offense are one-third of the reason the Dodgers are successful. Stellar outings from the starting rotation and bullpen have propelled the Dodgers to make a comeback in the NL West.