Healthy Dodgers go from hopeless to contenders
JUN 30, 2013 7:55p ET
Two weeks ago, the Dodgers looked hopeless, directionless. Today, they're contenders.
In baseball, things can turn that quickly. A winning streak, a couple of series wins, a new attitude, and suddenly, the momentum turns.
It's happening now. At the season's halfway point, the Dodgers are still trying to find .500, but with a rookie phenom posting historic numbers and a healthy lineup, they're forging ahead with renewed confidence.
It would be difficult to feel otherwise after Sunday's 6-1 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies on a blistering day at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers finished their home stand with a 5-1 record, and in a matter of 12 days they've gone from 9.5 games out of first place in the National League West to 2.5 out.
"It tells you how fast things change," manager Don Mattingly said. "I know I was preaching that early on when we were going bad and making sure our guys didn't go away from it. In a week's time, things look totally different. Seasons are long, and there are just a lot of games where you can pick up ground."
There are 13 of them coming up. Between now and the All-Star break in two weeks, the Dodgers play only division opponents: three road games each at Colorado (starting Tuesday), San Francisco and Arizona, then four at home against the Rockies.
A continuation of their splendid run — they've won eight of 10 and took three of four from the Phillies — could propel them above .500 and out of the N.L. West cellar.
None of that is lost on the players, but to their credit, they're not prepared to declare their early season misery over.
"Not good enough," shortstop Hanley Ramirez said of the team's encouraging play. "We've got a little more to go, knock on wood. We've got some goals. It's not done yet."
Ramirez extended his hitting streak to 12 games, but rookie Yasiel Puig again took center stage. He had his first career four-hit game and set an L.A. Dodgers record for hits in a month by a rookie, finishing June with 44, one more than Steve Sax hit in August of 1982.
Only Yankees Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio, who had 48 hits in 1936, totaled more hits in his debut calendar month than the Dodgers' flash.
Puig, who had two singles, a double and a triple and came within a home run of hitting for the cycle, said he had heard of DiMaggio but didn't know much beyond his name.
"I'm really excited to be put on that list, but more excited that the team is winning," he said through a translator.
Puig's impact can't be minimized. Since his arrival from the minors on June 3, the Dodgers are 15-11. Before he landed, they were 23-32.
"He definitely has changed the culture in this clubhouse," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "It's exciting."
But it will only stay that way as long as the Dodgers can keep their momentum pushing forward. A slump, especially in the next couple of weeks, would ruin everything they have achieved in the past 10 games.
"Just as fast as it's turning for us, I know on the other side of that hill is the chance, if you let your guard down, that you're going back in the other direction," Mattingly said. "You just can't let your guard down. You've got to take advantage now."
Now seems like the perfect time.