Los Angeles Dodgers Can Sustain Hot Streak with Kemp Out, Puig Cooling Off
Over the course of a demanding 162-game regular-season schedule, hot streaks come and go in Major League Baseball, both for players and teams alike.
Just ask the Los Angeles Dodgers, winners of 12 consecutive road games and owners of a 29-7 record over their last 36 games. That's the team's best 36-game stretch since 1953, and the 12 straight road wins are the most in team history since 1924.
They've accomplished those impressive numbers without Matt Kemp, who has stepped to the plate only 41 times during that streak. Understandably, rookie Yasiel Puig has been unable to keep up his historic start. His batting average dropped nearly 70 points, and he's collected only eight RBI since July 1.
So that begs the question: Can the Dodgers keep this hot streak going without major contributions from two of their biggest offensive weapons?
The answer is a resounding yes.
The Dodgers' hot streak doesn't go back only 36 games—it goes back toward the end of May when manager Don Mattingly lost his cool and nearly lost his job. Donnie Baseball was irate after the Dodgers lost to the Milwaukee Brewers 5-2 on May 21, ripping into management and players in a passionate postgame tirade to reporters.
With the Dodgers sitting eight games below .500 (18-26) and seven games out of first place in the National League West, it sure looked like Mattingly's time in Dodger blue was almost up.
But cooler heads prevailed, and the team has rallied around its leader, finally buying into what the former American League MVP was selling. Since Mattingly's rant, no team in the National League has been better than Los Angeles:
Dodgers fans will notice, of course, that none of the other teams in the National League West has played .500 baseball since the end of May.
Of the team's remaining 54 games, 26 come against divisional foes. Only 20 come against teams that we'd consider to be contenders at this point in the season: Arizona (seven), Boston (three), Cincinnati (three), Tampa Bay (three) and St. Louis (four).
Despite holding a 10-11 record against those five teams (the Dodgers have yet to play Boston or Tampa Bay), that bodes well for the team's chances of continued success.
While Kemp is likely out of action until September, according to the latest report from the Los Angeles Times' Ben Bolch, and Puig is no longer producing runs with regularity, this is not a roster that is devoid of quality bats.
Hanley Ramirez is finally healthy and swinging the bat like the perennial MVP candidate he once was, posting a .358/.412/.633 slash line since the beginning of July. Adrian Gonzalez, meanwhile, shook off a terrible June and returned to his usual All-Star form, with a .309/.353/.473 slash line over the same period of time.
Aside from Carl Crawford, every one of the team's regular starters has hit above .250 with an OPS over .700 for more than a month. That's quality production right there, but the Dodgers aren't only about offense.
How long can the Dodgers sustain their winning ways?
With L.A.'s rotation led by the best pitcher on the planet in Clayton Kershaw and supported by one of the more underrated bullpens in the game, no other team's pitching staff can beat their 2.52 ERA over the past month.
The Dodgers are getting quality innings from everyone. Even the oft-maligned Brandon League has pitched to a 2.89 ERA and 1.07 WHIP over his last eight appearances.
With the team's recent addition of Brian Wilson, who is not only healthy, but very familiar with the batters who occupy the lineups of the team's division rivals, the Dodgers bullpen is only going to get stronger once "The Beard" is ready to make his 2013 debut.
That's a scary proposition for the rest of the National League.
I'm not saying that the Dodgers aren't going to hit a rough patch between now and the end of the season, but they've been riding this current wave of success for more than two months. With a favorable schedule in front of them, betting against Los Angeles at this point in the season is a losing proposition.
Los Angeles is currently 59-49 and is 3.5 games clear of the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks in the division. The Dodgers are for real, folks, and they aren't going away anytime soon.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and are current through games of Aug. 1.
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