4 main reasons the Dodgers have climbed out from their early season slump

Los Angeles Dodgers v Washington Nationals
Los Angeles Dodgers v Washington Nationals / G Fiume/GettyImages

The Dodgers had high expectations entering the season, but sat at 12-11 entering the final game of a series against the Mets after dropping four of their previous five games. Los Angeles immediately flipped a switch, defeating the Mets 10-0 to avoid the sweep, and carried their offensive momentum into a 7-2 road trip against the Nationals, Blue Jays, and Diamondbacks. Between the 10-0 win against the Mets and the first game of the series against the Blue Jays, the Dodgers won five games in a row, scoring 10+ runs in three of those games.

The surge in offensive production wasn't out of nowhere, though. The bottom of the order had shown flashes of being more productive, and the top of the order continued its consistency throughout the road trip. When the Dodgers started adding the hottest bats from the first 20 or so games of the season into the lineup, and paired it with impressive levels of production from rookie outfielder Andy Pagés, the offense really started to hit its stride on the nine-game road trip. After the middling 12-11 start, the Dodgers now sit at 24-13 on the season after winning 12 of their last 14 games.

Top of the Dodgers' order comes through

In the last 14 games, The Dodgers' Big 4 in the lineup (Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani, Freddie Freeman, and Will Smith) have combined to drive in 46 runs, an average of 3.83 runs per game. If you add Andy Pagés (more on him soon) into the mix, that number grows to 4.14 runs per game, meaning that those five batters have combined to drive in more runs per game in the last 14 games than 12 entire teams are averaging per game throughout the season so far.

While the consistency at the top of the lineup has been there across the board, flashes of individual dominance have been important to the Dodgers' success as well. Ohtani has hit seven home runs in the last 14 games, including a two-homer game on Sunday, and he led L.A. with a 1.323 OPS in that 14-game stretch. Smith had two consecutive four-hit games during the road trip, and even though he isn't in the Dodgers' Big 4, Max Muncy chipped in with the first three-home run game of his career against Atlanta on Saturday. No matter who has been at the plate at the top of the order, they have been performing up to expectations recently.

Andy Pagés explodes into the majors

The Dodgers have been desperately searching for production from outfielders that aren't Teoscar Hernández ever since the season started. After the short-lived Taylor Trammell experiment, the Dodgers turned to homegrown Cuban prospect Andy Pagés to provide a spark to the lineup. Only 18 games into Pagés' big-league career, it is obvious that he has done just that. Pagés started slow, hitting .143 in his first four games, but it is no coincidence that Pagés' offensive surge in the past 14 games directly coincides with the Dodgers' 12-2 stretch.

Pagés has six multi-hit games in the last 14 games, including a four-hit game against Atlanta that he capped off with a walk-off single. Although it took him until last night to draw the first walk of his major-league career, Pagés' aggressiveness has his slash line sitting at .362/.371/.638 in the last 14 games, which is good enough for a 1.009 OPS. He ranks second (only trailing Ohtani) on the team in AVG (.362), HR (4), RBI (12), SLG (.638), and OPS (1.009) in that span, and his 21 hits in that span are tied with Ohtani for the team lead.

Originally, it seemed Pagés would get a big-league cup of tea while Jason Heyward spent time on the IL, but Pagés has been so good that it seems he will actually force the Dodgers' hand when Heyward returns. If he can keep this up for a bit longer, he might stay on the roster and induce the Dodgers to send a struggling vet down to the minor leagues.

Lineup changes

The bottom of the Dodgers' lineup was extremely unproductive at the beginning of the season. In this recent stretch of success, Dave Roberts has finally made some changes at the bottom of the order to lean into embracing the people who are actually producing. James Outman has struggled (.571 OPS) at the plate, despite his home run last night, and as a result has only played in eight of the last 14 games as a result. Chris Taylor (.289 OPS) has played in eight of the last 14 games as well. Gavin Lux (.457 OPS) has also played in eight of the last 14 games.

So who has replaced those three with the extra playing time available? First, with the crazy stretch that Pagés is on, he has more than earned the 14 straight appearances he has made in the outfield. Those appearances have clearly taken the spot in the lineup from Outman/Taylor, and until those two figure it out, that should continue.

The other Dodgers who have taken advantage of the extra available spots are vets Kiké Hernández and Miguel Rojas. Both players have played in 10 of the last 14 games for the Dodgers. While neither of them has been dominant like Pagés, Rojas has posted a .701 OPS in those 10 games, while Hernández is at .653. Again, the numbers aren't dazzling, but since Pagés has extended the lineup to feature seven truly formidable threats, the production from Hernández and Rojas (especially considering Rojas's defensive value) has just needed to be serviceable, and it has been. These two should continue to take up most of the time at their positions until Outman, Taylor, or Lux can get on track.

Dodgers' pitching staff steps up

Okay, that's enough talk about the lineup, even though it has been great. It needs to be mentioned that when the Dodgers put up 10+ runs three times in five games, the pitching staff only allowed six runs total. The offense put up an underwhelming four and two runs in between the 10-run explosions, but because of the pitching staff, L.A. still won all five of those games. In fact, the Dodgers have only allowed more than three runs in a game twice in the last 14 games (both against the Diamondbacks), and one of those games went to extra innings.

With the way the staff has performed since shutting out the Mets on April 21, the Dodgers easily could have won 14 games in a row. Obviously, 12-2 with a weekend sweep against the Braves is more than exciting enough, but this pitching staff has been lights out for the last two weeks, even without having Bobby Miller and prior to Walker Buehler's return. Tyler Glasnow and Yoshinobu Yamamoto have been pitching like true aces, while Landon Knack, Gavin Stone, and James Paxton have all shown strong performances recently as well. The bullpen has been strong behind those five, and we all know that even though this staff is trying to reach sky-high expectations while fighting the injury bug, over the last 14 games they have gone above and beyond even the loftiest preseason expectations.