The Dodgers are riding high after winning six of seven games during a recent road trip that sent them to Philadelphia for four games before heading back across the country for three games in Seattle with no day off in between.
Given that brutal travel schedule, the Dodgers can be forgiven for being no-hit last Friday night, fresh off of a four-game sweep of the Phillies. They bounced back nicely from that 1-0 defeat, winning the last two games in Seattle by a combined 16-5 margin.
Los Angeles had lost six of seven prior to their trip to Philly, so the recent road success was a much needed confidence booster heading in to tonight’s huge series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Angels owner Art Moreno has made no secret of his desire to dominate the Los Angeles baseball market since purchasing the team in 2003 for $183 million, a bargain considering the $2 billion-plus that the Dodgers sold for earlier this year.
It was bad enough that MLB commissioner Bud Selig allowed the Angels to use the phrase “Los Angeles” in their official team name, but now Moreno is looking at taking the even bolder step of dropping the “of Anaheim” portion in the near future, despite that being the team’s physical location.
Knowing full well that marketing gimmicks will not be enough to overcome the Dodgers’ 55-year history in the City of Angels, Moreno has done his best to put a consistently competitive team on the field, something the Dodgers have not always been committed to—especially over the past twenty years.
In that time, the Dodgers have gone through two disastrous ownership periods, first under the Rupert Murdoch-led News Corps—which treated the team as little more than a subsidiary of the media conglomerate—and the recently-ended Frank McCourt era which all Dodger fans are eager to forget.
Well before the Dodgers made headlines with their new ownership group, headlined by long-time baseball executive Stan Kasten and Los Angeles legend Magic Johnson, Moreno raised the stakes on the inter-city rivalry by spending lavishly on free agent slugger Albert Pujols and former Texas Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson.
The spending must have been more immediately motivated by watching their AL West rival Rangers make back-to-back World Series appearances, but Dodger fans were undoubtedly envious.
While the Angels stumbled out of the gates, the Dodgers started 2012 with the same stellar play that began after last season’s All-Star break, sporting the best record in the majors (39-22) entering tonight’s series opener.
The best part is that they continue to play well in the absence of All-Star center fielder Matt Kemp, who after a record-breaking April has made two trips to the disabled list with a strained hamstring that will keep him out at least until early July.
The Dodgers enter tonight’s play holding a five-game lead over the San Francisco Giants, while the resurgent Angels have managed to climb within three games of the AL West-leading Texas Rangers. Both division races appear to be setting up for terrific September finishes, but the battle for the hearts—and wallets—of Angelinos resumes tonight in Chavez Ravine.
Contact Geoff at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him on Twitter @snglemarriedguy, and read more of his takes on sports and pop culture at popflyboys.com