And how about that. The team that was given up on early in the season, by many pundits and fans alike, is back in first place.
The Arizona Diamondbacks lost to the San Diego Padres Thursday night, moving the Dodgers back on top. Once 10 games back in the division, the Dodgers have slowly and steadily worked their way back to the top. On April 30, Dave Roberts said: “When it’s all said and done, the Dodgers will be back at the top of the division.” This came after a 8-5 loss to the Diamondbacks when the club was sporting a record of 12-16. Since then, they have gone 35-23 and erased the lead the Diamondbacks had.
The Dodgers have done this without their All-Star shortstop and a rotating cast of players on and off the disabled list, including most of the starting rotation. Imagine what they’re capable of when they finally reach full strength and are bolstered by several prospective moves at the trade deadline.
This weekend the Dodgers will start a series with their freeway counterparts, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It is going to be very hot, with temps soaring well north of 100°. The Angels are sitting at .500, with a record of 44-44, 13.5 games back in the AL West.
Offensively, they are lead by shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who is slashing .315/.373/.444/.817 with 15 doubles and six homers, five stolen bases and has only struck out 15 times. Mike Trout continues to be his dominant self, batting .309./454/.625/.1.079, tied for second in the Majors with 24 homers, and leads in OPS.
The biggest offseason acquisition for the Angels was dual threat Shohei Ohtani, who has just returned from the DL. He had been sidelined since June 6, dealing with a Grade 2 sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament. He is 2-for-9 since his return to the lineup. Ohtani is not scheduled to pitch anytime soon.
The pitching matchup in the opener at Angel Stadium will be Kenta Maeda facing off against Felix Pena. Maeda is coming off a nine-strikeout, seven-inning, five-hit performance against the Rockies. Peña is a converted reliever who will be making his fourth start of the season, as he collected his first win Friday against the Baltimore Orioles. He has 17 strikeouts in 14-1/3 innings of work.
Saturday’s game will be at 4:15 PDT and will see Ross Stripling and Deck McGuire take the mound. Stripling gave up four earned runs over an even six innings against the Rockies on Sunday with seven strikeouts. McGuire will be making only his second start of the season for the Angels after going 3-1/3 innings and giving up five runs against the Orioles last Sunday.
The finale will be Sunday night primetime, when Alex Wood will face off against Andrew Heaney. Wood is riding a three-game winning streak after a disappointing start to the season. He only allowed one run to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday, a solo home run. Heaney is 4-6 on the season, and is 0-2 with a 6.10 ERA in two career starts against the Dodgers.
As long as the Dodgers’ offense stays as hot as the weather, they will have no problem maintaining and increasing their first place position.