You know something special is happening in Dodger-land when the fans arrive earlier and leave later than usual for home games.
The majority now arrive in the second inning and leave by the eighth, a huge sign that Dodger fever has been caught again in the City of Angels. They’re off to a sizzling 9-1 start, good enough for the best record in baseball.
The start also equals their best while playing in Los Angeles. The last time the Dodgers began 9-1 was in 1981, the year Fernando-mania captivated the nation and beat the Yankees in the World Series. The LVH Super Book opened the Dodgers at 40-to-1 to win the World Series and they’ve been dropped all the way down to 20-1.
Now granted, the Dodgers haven’t exactly played the best of the best yet. We’ve seen them take six games from the Padres and three from the Pirates, the No. 29 and 30th worst hitting teams in the league thus far. But maybe some of that poor hitting can be attributed to the Dodgers pitching staff that has compiled a pretty good starting rotation led by one of the best in the game, Clayton Kershaw.
The Dodgers bullpen was kind of a question mark coming into the season, but Javy Guerra has been perfect in all five save situations and Kenley Jansen is settling into the set-up role nice (11 K’s in 6 innings).
It’s rare for most Dodgers teams not to have good pitching. Pitching at Dodger Stadium has saved and lengthened many mediocre pitcher’s careers because of the thick smoggy air being atop the center of Los Angeles slowing deep fly balls.
Then you have Matt Kemp as the straw stirring the drink who leads in just about every MLB hitting category (.487, 6 HR, 16 RBI). All six of his home runs have come against Padres pitching.
It’s fair to say we saw enough of Kemp last season (a year he should have been MVP) to believe he’ll be slapping around pitchers from every team this year. Beyond Kemp, the Dodgers have been getting timely hitting from everyone, including Andre Ethier who has 15 RBI himself.
It’s only been three years removed since the Manny-wood era when they made the NLCS two straight years, yet it seems like an eternity since they were good. Baseball is better when Dodgers baseball matters. It’s difficult to explain why they matter, other than just being one of the elite historical franchises of all-time.
By no means is Vin Scully a homer announcer; he calls it like he’s see’s it with no bias for either team, and offers a wealth of insightful knowledge on everything baseball. But when the Dodgers are doing well, he gets that subtle inflection in his voice that tells you, without saying so, that this could be a fun year for the Dodger fans.
You have to give credit to Don Mattingly for continuing a hot stretch of great baseball that started last August and September. The Dodgers are playing Donnie-ball, look good doing it and have recaptured all the attention of LA and Orange counties. Albert Pujols made a big splash when he signed with the Angels, but is still looking for his first home run.
It’s still way too early to get overly excited about the Dodgers chances, but the month of April plays out pretty favorable for the roll to continue and help them continue the momentum. Their on the road this week against Milwaukee and Houston, and then come home to play the Braves and Nationals.
The sentimental baseball side for most of us would love to see Scully sent out in his final season with one last pennant chase and a World Series title for the first time since 1988. Interestingly enough, this Dodgers team has kind of the same make-up of that ‘88 squad. Kershaw fit’s the Hershiser role, Kemp the MVP role of Gibson, but still can’t quite make out the Mickey Hatcher of the group.
It may not be surprising that the weak hitting Pirates have played eight of their nine games UNDER the posted total, but it is kind of shocking that the powerful Rangers lineup would be 1-9 to the UNDER. Almost as shocking is the Astros playing eight of their nine games OVER.
The epic saga gains another chapter this week as the rivalry continues at Fenway Park this weekend. The AL East looks a little crowded at the top with Baltimore and Toronto playing well while both Boston and New York don’t look as invincible as in past years. Be sure to check out GamingToday.com later this week for a full preview of the three game set.