June 22 -- Dodger fans have heard that date thrown around the past few months during game broadcasts, in the papers and online as the date they turned their season around.
The Dodgers have been on an incredible journey, fighting their way from the cellars of the NL West in order to become the first team to clinch a division this season, and secure a spot in the playoffs.
At 9.5 games back and 12 games under .500 on June 22, the Dodgers were a $200 million team in shambles. Fans were fed up with it, calling them a group of under-performing, over-paid prima donnas.
"Trade Andre Ethier! Bench Matt Kemp! Fire Don Mattingly!" were the cries from the fans, and the media as well. Turns out Kemp had not recovered from postseason shoulder surgery, Ethier was simply in a bad slump, and Mattingly could not put together a winning lineup, despite throwing out 50 different lineups in the first 53 games.
Turns out this roster from June 2 of Punto 2B, Uribe 3B, Gonzalez 1B, Van Slyke LF, Federowicz C, Ethier RF, Cruz SS, Schumaker CF, Magill P was not going to win games. But that was what Mattingly was forced to deal with because, at that point, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, A.J. Ellis, Mark Ellis, and a number of starting pitchers were all injured.
The very next day was when the Dodgers called up Yasiel Puig. He injected a newfound spirit into the club and brought an electric atmosphere to Dodger Stadium, but the team was still just 7-10 in his first 17 games.
It was going to take more than one player to turn this team around, and that is when Hanley Ramirez's return from a hamstring injury really got things going. He became a consistent starter on June 19, was 4-4 in his first game back, and went on an absolute tear hitting .486/.525/1.390 in 20 games.
Another big change, and probably the best managerial call that Mattingly made all season, came on June 11 when he demoted Brandon League from his role as closer, and put Kenley Jansen in his place. Now all those close one and two-run games were no longer in jeopardy. Jansen has blown just three saves in 40 games since becoming the closer.
With Puig and Ramirez added to the lineup, Andre Ethier started to find his stroke, too. He has hit over .300 since June 11, breaking out of a horrible .229 slump to start the season. Also he has stepped up and played center field while Kemp has been gone.
On top of everything else Carl Crawford returned from a hamstring injury at the start of July, giving the Dodgers another weapon in what had become the stacked lineup they expected to have all season long.
The record shows that the Dodgers turnaround started on June 22, but these are the major events that made it possible. Since June 22 they are 58-23.
The Dodgers have a 10.5-game lead with nine games left in the season. In their history, the widest margin they have won the division by was 10 games in 1977.
What a journey the Dodgers have been on so far in 2013. With the amount of talent stacked into this roster it should be a story that continues for at least a few more weeks.