Andre Ethier #16 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates in the dugout after scoring the second inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on July 2, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.
The Dodgers have won 10 of 11 games with winning streaks of six and four games, and while there is no way they sustain this run forever, it has been quite the ride to see this team perform to the expectations laid out for them in the preseason.
So what took so long for them to start winning games? There have been so many factors and contributions from particular players, but Don Mattingly pinned it down on one aspect: “The biggest thing is health. We are pretty much at full strength.”
The best example for this is to look at the lineup the Dodgers played with a month ago in Colorado: Nick Punto hitting leadoff, Juan Uribe hitting second, Adrian Gonzalez in his usual third spot, Scott Van Slyke fourth and in left field, Tim Federowicz fifth, a struggling Andre Ethier hitting sixth, Luis Cruz seventh, Skip Schumaker hitting eighth and in center field, with Matt Magill on the mound.
The Dodgers will finish their series against Colorado on Thursday, and have a completely different lineup: Mark Ellis leading off, Puig hitting second, Adrian Gonzalez has not budged, Hanley Ramirez, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, A.J. Ellis, Juan Uribe and Matt Magill is down in the minors.
It is no surprise that one of those teams was in last place, and the other is surging their way to the top of their division.
After winning six in a row, Mattingly talked about how winning changes the mentality for the team overall, “We just put some wins on the board. I just can’t tell you enough what happens when teams win. You get momentum, you get rolling and you just expect to win.”
The only loss the Dodgers have suffered in 11 games was an embarrassing 16-1 outing against Philadelphia, but even after that loss they bounced back with an exciting walk-off victory the next night.
While the winning streak is a team-effort, there is no ignoring the role of certain players.
When Hanley Ramirez came back from injury he became the hottest hitter on the team. Wiith a 14-game hitting streak, he is sporting a .500/.534/.926 stat line with 16 RBI, six home runs, five doubles, and just four strikeouts.
Yasiel Puig has stolen the spotlight with his historic month of June, and during the last 11 games is hitting .419/.447/.698 with nine runs scored, six RBI, and two home runs. Mattingly has had nothing but words of praise since his arrival, including this quote about how his presence impacts the whole team, “I think the way that Yasiel Plays is really contagious for guys and the effect it has on fans. I think the biggest guys want to play like that, brings the young energy back.”
As fun as it is the stare at the unreal numbers Puig and Ramirez have been putting up lately, let’s not forget that Andre Ethier has had a resurgence lately. Ethier has been shuffled around wherever the Dodgers want him lately, playing all three outfield positions well, defensively, and is hitting .328/.400/..431 in the last 17 games.
A.J. Ellis came back sluggish from his oblique strain, hitting just 5-33 before getting the walk-off RBI in the win against Philadelphia on Saturday. In the 4 games since he has seven hits in his last 15 at bats with three RBI and four runs scored.
The Dodgers go for five in a row on Thursday in Colorado with Chris Capuano on the mound against Jhoulys Chacin.