The Dodgers waited all season for their captain to return, and it cannot be understated how much this lineup missed his presence. While they didn’t win the first two games of the series, they exploded for seven runs in Thursday’s game, five of the runs driven in by none other than Justin Turner.
The ginger third baseman, appearing in the lineup for the first time this year after incurring an injury to his wrist during spring training, may be just the thing that this team needs to finally turn itself around. Turner had two bases clearing doubles for his five RBI, seemingly doing more to drive in baserunners in one game than the Dodgers have done all year.
The Dodgers also mounted a four-run inning in Wednesday’s game, tying the game up. That’s something they had failed to do multiple times previously. While the bullpen went on to lose the game, again, the team showed some fire that had been lacking. That can be directly attributed to JT’s return.
The whole team had a different feel about it by Thursday morning. Thanks to the wonders of Instagram, players were seen dancing in the dugout—Enrique Hernandez put on a heck of a show, Yasiel Puig was doing his signature wiggles while even Clayton Kershaw was getting into the act. The team seemed loose and ready to go, and it showed in the game.
“We all, as a collective group, have done a good job of getting people on base,” outfielder Matt Kemp told reporters after the game. “We just haven’t had that timely hit. We got one of our best hitters back and he had a big day for us today. I think that kind of relaxed everybody and we saw some good things.”
Kenta Maeda had the best start of his Dodger career, going eight shut out innings while allowing only two hits and no walks with eight strikeouts. Puig seems to be heating back up, with three home runs this week. Maybe, just maybe, the turn around is happening.
One thing that intrigues me, that seems to be popular with talking heads, is that this team is just not as good as last year. I think that you could say that about the bullpen, because it has proven to be true. But the rest of the team is basically the same, with the addition of Kemp, who has more than held up his end of the bargain. Maybe you could say that the team has regressed. That last year, they all just played out of their minds, you can’t catch lightning in a bottle twice. That could prove more to be true, I suppose, then the team just not being good.
To the idea that this team is absolutely terrible, but this is how they should be playing? That is ridiculous. Last year’s team was excellent—and now basically the same team, they’re just not good? That doesn’t fly with me.
I will refrain from predicting what this team will do, because the first quarter of the season has shown that that’s impossible to do. The pitching staff and weather in D.C. this weekend are going to be a good test to see if the tide is turning. But they are going to start playing better, because they are not a bad team. They are much better than they are playing. They are also lucky that they are playing in the NL West, where the other teams also are not quite so good. Arizona has been going through a losing streak of their own, and have allowed the Dodgers to stick around, such as it is, at eight games back. Had Arizona put on any winning streak of their own recently, the Dodgers would be seemingly buried with little hope.
But as it is, there is hope again in Dodgertown. The Captain is back, Clayton Kershaw is progressing well with his rehab, and the bats seem to be coming around. If the bullpen could get its act together, we will start seeing a totally different team.