It’s unfair to compare teams from year to year, because, stating the obvious, they aren’t the same team. The 2018 Dodgers are not the 2017 Dodgers, even though most of the players are the same.
However, in the last few games, I have started to see that spark which earlier in the season I had said was lacking. That spirit that the games isn’t over even when the score says otherwise. That passion, fire and just plain having fun that they were lacking.
Of course, it’s easier to have fun when you’re winning. One could probably ask which came first, the winning or being loose. The Dodgers are definitely loose, and they are winning a lot more games than they were in April. I think a big part of the being loose is the lack of panic by anyone in management when things were not going the way they should have.
Matt Kemp brought some fire Wednesday night at the Ravine, running full steam through the Rangers’ catcher Robinson Chirinos. Kemp, who has been criticized for lack of hustle, and often injured, is giving everything for his team. Bringing the passion. Passion not brought on by angst about not winning, passion because he wants to give it all for the team. Kemp and Chirinos were both suspended for one game and fined for their little brawl after the hit at home. Kemp is appealing, Chirinos is not.
The Dodgers won that game in 11 innings on a a little bounce-back hit that the pitcher threw slightly errantly, allowing Kiké Hernandez to do a sweet avoidance move and touch the plate for the winning score. That is the kind of crazy, game-winning stuff that we saw last year. Who knew how it was going to happen, but you somehow knew it was going to break in the Dodgers’ favor.
They have another guy in Max Muncy who seemingly came out of nowhere to light the world on fire. I’ve seen tweets saying that Muncy should be Rookie of the Year, but Muncy is no rookie, having been in the bigs with the Oakland A’s before coming to LA. No, he’s just this year’s Chris Taylor, hitting bombs and playing wherever the Dodgers tell him to.
Things are continuing to look good for the Dodgers. Cody Bellinger seems to finally be turning things around. Joc Pederson has been red hot, slashing .409/.409/1.273 in his last seven games with five home runs, and is now second on the team to Kemp in batting average.
But the most important thing is that the starting pitchers are getting close to returning from the disabled list. Kenta Maeda came back Wednesday and had a solid outing. Rich Hill had a rehab start in Rancho Cucamonga, throwing 75 pitches, over 4-2/3 innings with 10 strikeouts. He allowed four hits, two to a fellow rehab player Austin Hedges, and two unearned runs. Hill talked after the game, saying he was happy with his spin rate. He is slated to be the starter on Tuesday against the Chicago Cubs.
Tonight the Dodgers open up a three game series against the rival San Francisco Giants, who are two games behind the second place Dodgers in the division. They are sending their best pitcher to the mound in Ross Stripling and will face Derek Holland, who is not having the best year. Saturday’s game will see Alex Wood and Madison Bumgarner, who will be making his second start since returning from the disabled list. He struggled facing the Miami Marlins, and was ejected as he left the mound after having words with home plate umpire Jeremie Rehak. Sunday the Giants will send righty Chris Stratton to the mound, and the Dodgers will start rookie Caleb Ferguson.
A notable loss in the lineup for the Giants is Evan Longoria, who fractured his fifth metacarpal, which, interestingly enough was the same injury Bumgarner has been on the DL with. The Dodgers could be without Kemp for one of the three games. With the Dodgers hot, and the Giants exhausted from extra innings and a long flight from Miami, it could be a very good weekend at The Ravine.