If Bats Stay Hot, Dodgers May Soon Overtake Rockies for Divisional Lead

(Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth/USA Today Sports)

Up until recently, many media outlets have been emphasizing how the starting rotation and the relief corps of the Dodgers have been the backbone of the club over the course of the season’s first quarter. While this is certainly true, it can also be said that the team’s offense is quickly building momentum, and if the lumber can maintain any kind of steady reliability, the Dodgers may be controlling the National League West in the blink of an eye.

By mid-June of last season, the Boys in Blue found themselves consistently hovering behind San Francisco by six-plus games for the divisional lead. The final game that resident ace Clayton Kershaw pitched before heading to the disabled list was June 26 against the Pirates, at which point the Dodgers trailed the Giants by a whopping eight games. It was then the offense seemingly ignited, and by the middle of August, the good guys overtook the divisional lead from their rivals and never looked back.

One of the catalysts for the offensive turnaround last season was second baseman Chase Utley, and it just so happens that the veteran’s bat is among the hottest on the club at the present juncture. It was only five weeks ago that Utley found himself mired with an .034/.152/.034 slash line, yet since that particular time has been hitting .307/.404/.520 with three home runs, three doubles, two triples and 14 RBI in 75 plate appearances. Even with the prospective return of third baseman Justin Turner by the end of the week, Utley may continue to see significant time at second base while his bat’s still hot, especially against right-handed pitching.

And Utley isn’t the only one.

Even though his batting average continues to dip slightly, Cody Bellinger is still OPSing over .950, and gives the Dodgers a much needed power threat — something that was close to non-existent over the first three weeks of the season. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Bellinger was the fastest Dodger rookie in the modern era to reach 10 home runs, and after smashing his 11th long ball at Busch Stadium on Monday afternoon, finds himself beginning to gain ground on the league leaders. And to think there was a bit of chatter about optioning him back to Oklahoma City when the Dodgers’ outfield began to get healthier in late April.

Despite his relatively unimpressive slash line of .234/.301/.417, Yasiel Puig has been no slouch in the power department, either. Puig now has nine long balls on the year, and if able to find a groove of even a bit of minimal consistency, unquestionably stretches the lineup enormously from top to bottom.

There’s no doubt that catcher Yasmani Grandal has been one of the two the hottest hitters on the club over the past several weeks. Still on the bad side of the Mendoza Line as recently as April 29, Grandal has hit .353/.389/.553 with 11 doubles in his 85ABs since, and has been producing admirably while primarily filling in for Turner in the three-hole.

Chris Taylor continues to produce also, sporting a .312/.409/.541 slash line over 127 plate appearances on the year. During spring training, Taylor was in a battle with teammate Enrique Hernandez for the team’s final roster spots, and eventually missed out on being included on the Opening Day squad because of his inability to effectively man center field. But considering his production all over the yard since being recalled in mid-April, it’s highly unlikely he’ll relinquish his current spot on the big league roster anytime soon.

On top of that, there’s still no telling what JT will bring to the table upon his return to the lineup. Before being sidelined, Turner led the NL in batting with a .379 average despite being a tad short in the power department. Still, if he can maintain anywhere close to a 900+ OPS, the Dodgers could find themselves among the most mighty offensive juggernauts in the game as the month of June progresses. And that’s not even taking into consideration a potential hot streak from the likes of Corey Seager, Logan Forsythe or perennial butter-and-eggs man, Adrian Gonzalez.

The season’s still young, as is the current road trip. There’s still three more games to play against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium before heading over to Milwaukee for a three-game set versus the NL Central-leading Brew Crew. But along with some effective pitching, if the Dodgers can somehow keep this current surge of offense cooking into the first few weeks of June, lookout.



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