It’s the All-Star break. While others argue over whether this is truly the halfway point of the season, let’s take a quick look at the Top 5 Moments from the Dodgers’ wild, wacky, and sometimes winning, first half of the season.
1 The Opening Weekend pounding of the San Diego Padres.
Just like any home-grown, die-hard, dipped in Dodger Blue fan, I always believe on Opening Day that my team is going to win it all. The Dodgers opened the season in San Diego, and fed my World Series fantasy by going juggernaut on the Padres.
The team started the season like gangbusters, absolutely firing on all cylinders. It was beautiful. Remember that wonderful onslaught over the Padres these days, as Corey, Clayton and Kenley wear those ugly San Diego colors.
The Dodgers won the opening three games of the season by a combined score of 24-0, and the entire pitching staff posted an impressive ERA of 0.00 – a 27-inning, record setting, scoreless streak.
2 The Legend of the Red Albatross.
The first half of Justin Turner‘s 2016 season should be split into its own two halves.
Turner began the first part of the season hitting lousy, and then he went down from there. Weeks turned into months with Turner absolutely stinking at the plate. To make matters worse, manager Dave Roberts kept batting Turner in the second or third batting slot (he batted third in 33 of his 47 starts), which was certain death for any Dodger rallies back then.
After seeing game after game, and then series after series being lost, I had enough. I wrote this scathing article, in which I named Turner, “The Red Albatross”.
Someone must have shown the article to the Red Chia Pet, because the next night, he hit a 3-run bomb, and he hasn’t stopped hitting yet. He’s now at 13 home runs, and more importantly, 44 RBI’s. For the guys who love trends, that sets him on a pace for just under 90 RBI’s. That would be a pretty good season for Turner.
His present slash line is .256/.331/.445 with a fantastic OPS of .776
A couple of signed bats and jerseys would be a wonderful “Thanks”, JT.
3. Yasiel Puig playing well since returning from the disabled list.
Make no mistake about it. I’m a fan of the Wild Horse. So I’m very happy to report Puig is batting a healthy .328 since coming back from his latest stint on the DL. He’s also batting smarter – cutting down on strike outs, and walking 8 times in his last 10 games. That’s a good trend as well.
Puig has retained his speed on the base paths, as we saw when he won the June 22 game against the Nationals in a walk-off that only he could engineer.
Puig came to the plate as the winning run in the ninth, and he hit a single, which turned into a crazy home run on Michael Taylor‘s error in center field. Puig raced around the bases, and scored the winning run with a belly flop slide at home plate.
Puig is still a force to be reckoned with defensively as well, as he showed with a racing, shoestring catch of a dying blooper in last Sunday’s game against the Padres.
Even if you’re on the “Trade Puig” bandwagon, you’ve got to appreciate what this steady level of play has done for his trade value.
4. The weekend sweep of the Rockies after the bad news about Clayton Kershaw.
When news broke that Clayton Kershaw was receiving treatments for a sore back, Dodger fans took a collective deep breath hoping it was nothing serious.
Trouble was, each new trickle of news about Kershaw was worse than the one before. Finally, the Dodgers placed Kershaw on the Disabled List, with no clear timetable for his return.
The Internet burst into flames. Teeth were gnashed and blue jerseys were torn asunder. Many declared the Dodgers’ season over.
Then came the Colorado Rockies series, pitched by Bud Norris, Scott Kazmir, and Brandon McCarthy. They were nothing less than sensational. The three starting pitchers over the series delivered 17 shut out innings and 26 strikeouts. Add in the bullpens’ work, and the Dodgers stacked up 38 strike outs over the three games.
The offense combined with the excellent pitching to beat the Rockies by scores of 5-0, 6-1, and 4-1. It was exactly what the team needed, and it served notice to the rest of the playoff hunters out there, that Kershaw or not, the Dodgers weren’t going away.
5. The bullpen carrying the Dodgers from June to the break.
Early in the season, the bullpen was a weak link, a huge liability – an albatross, if you will. When the bullpen took the field, home runs were surrendered, and leads were blown on a regular basis.
Dodger fans and writers became increasingly frustrated. Radio talk shows, Twitter, and online comment pages were filled with verbal knives aimed at the ineffective bullpen. And those were from the nice folks.
As June unfolded, the starting rotation began leaving games earlier, and the bullpen was tasked with getting the job done, or the season would be lost.
As the cream of the bullpen rose to the top, Chris Hatcher and J.P. Howell remained firestarters. One big reason for the numerous shutout innings the Dodger hurlers piled up, was the skipper wisely stopped using those two in critical situations.
The last two weeks saw the bullpen putting up four (or more) scoreless innings almost nightly. They go into the break with a major league leading 2.83 ERA. They are also the stingiest relief squad in the majors, with only 99 runs scored, and they’ve held opponents to the lowest batting average of all, .195
Weak link? More like invaluable.
Those are my top five moments. Let us know what some of yours are in the comments below.