After a dismal start to the season, thee Los Angeles Dodgers are starting to live up to preseason expectations put on them by oddsmakers.
The Dodgers were mired in a slump in April that saw them looking more like National League West cellar dwellers than World Series contenders.
The team that last year took the champion Houston Astros to seven games in the World Series were 11-13 at the end of April this year, and in no way resembled a ball club headed back to the postseason any time soon.
Sportsbooks had the Dodgers at 5/1 to win the World Series before the season began. Two months later they were at 14/1, well behind leader Houston, who is at 5/1.
Early Season Stumbles
LA had suffered a string of disappointing losses, but one in particular could have been the most embarrassing.
Ace Clayton Kershaw was facing the Miami Marlins on Apr. 25, a team that at the time had the third worst record in baseball. The Dodgers were anywhere from a -450 to -485 against the lowly Marlins.
But Kershaw struggled and was removed in the fifth inning. Miami would go on to win and it was the first time since the Minnesota Twins to have odds that big and lose.
The frustration was evident a week later when the team lost to another bottom dweller, the Cincinnati Reds.
“I know we’re better than the way we’ve played,” Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts said. “Certain expectations, we want to realize them. Right now, we’re not.”
At one point during the stretch the team was 10 games under .500 and it looked like it would be a lost season.
Unstopped by Injury
Now a month later, the Dodgers are one of the hottest teams in the baseball. They’re at .500 for the first time since late April, having won 14 of their last 19, and just two games out of first place.
And they’ve gotten their with two aces on the disabled list. Kershaw is making his second appearance. The first was in early May with biceps tendinitis. He returned to the DL a week ago when the team announced he had a lower back strain.
Rich Hill had a troublesome blister and was out of the starting rotation. Roberts has been using him out of the bullpen in an effort to build up his innings in the hopes he can return as a starter in the next couple of weeks.
And it wasn’t just the pitching staff plagued by injury. Third baseman Justin Turner fractured his wrist before the season and was out for the first two months. The team got even worse news when starting shortstop Corey Seager was diagnosed with an elbow injury that will require major surgery.
Still with all the setbacks the team continues to play well and are becoming the favorites to win their division. Matt Kemp has become a symbol of the team, resurrecting a career many thought was over to become the leading hitter in the NL.
And the comeback wins keep coming. A week ago they came from four runs down to defeat the Colorado Rockies.
“Good teams chip away and take runs when they can,” Kemp said. “Any comeback win is fun. This was a good team win.”