Perfect ten: Sensational rookie Cody Bellinger and steady pitching help Dodgers get rolling
- Thanks to the prolific power of Cory Bellinger and the performances of Alex Wood and Kenley Jansen, the Dodgers have won 10 in a row and look unstoppable.
When you're as hot as the Dodgers are right now, no path to victory seems too farfetched. On Sunday, the reigning NL West champions spotted the Rockies a 5–0 lead through three innings, then clawed their way back to win 12–6. Trailing 6–4 in the seventh, they plated three runs against reliever Adam Ottavino, all of which scored on wild pitches, and they added two more in similar fashion as Colorado manager Bud Black let his suddenly erratic reliever twist in the wind. After Black finally summoned closer Greg Holland, the Dodgers capped their scoring when Kenley Jansen—who had entered with one out in the eighth and a mere one-run lead—doubled in a run, the first of his major league career. The win was their 10th straight, and they own the NL's best record at 51–26 (.662).
The Dodgers have gotten to this point thanks to a collection of remarkable team and individual feats. In honor of their current streak, here are 10 that stand out.
Ten consecutive wins
Since losing to the Indians 12–5 in Cleveland on June 15, the Dodgers have sandwiched three-game sweeps of the Reds and Rockies around a four-game sweep of the Mets. They're the third team to win 10 straight this year, after the Rangers (May 9–19) and Astros (11 straight from May 25–June 5).
This marks the first time the Dodgers have won at least 10 straight since 2006, when they won 11 in a row. The franchise record since moving to Los Angeles is 13, set from May 21–June 1, 1962 and matched from Sept. 16–30, 1965. During their years in Brooklyn, the record was 15, from Aug. 29–Sept. 6, 1924.
A 16–1 run
Prior to the aforementioned June 15 loss in Cleveland, the Dodgers had won six straight over the Nationals, Reds and Indians, meaning that they've won 16 out of 17. The last Dodgers team to do so was in 2006; that team, which extended their run to 17–1, ended up winning the NL West but bowing to the Mets in the Division Series. The Twins had a 19–1 run earlier that year. Since then, only the 2009 Rockies (17–1) and 2013 Tigers (16–1) have had streaks as good or better than the Dodgers’ current run.
On April 26, Hunter Pence's 10th inning sacrifice fly off Ross Stripling gave the Giants a 4–3 win and dropped the Dodgers to 10-12. Since then, they've won 41 out of 55 games, for a .745 winning percentage; that's just over a third of a season at a 121-win pace. That streak is two wins better than next-best 55-game tear in the majors this year, by the Astros, and one win better than the best streak in the majors last year (by the Giants).
The last team to go 41–14 over a 55-game stretch was the 2015 Blue Jays, while the last to best that was the 2013 Dodgers, who went 46–10 over a 56-game stretch—including a 42-8 run, matching the majors’ best 50-game run since the 1942 Cardinals—and kicked off what's now a four-year streak of division titles. If they can continue to outpace the Rockies (47–31) and Diamondbacks (48–28), in a division that recalls the 2015 NL Central, they'll become just the sixth team to win five straight after the A's (1971–75), Braves (1995–2005), Indians (1995–99), Yankees (1998–2006) and Phillies (2007–11).
Home Sweet Home
Sunday’s win was the Dodgers’ 11th straight at home—two shy of the Dodger Stadium record set in 1993 and matched in 2009. The team is currently 32–10 (.762) at home, the best in the majors since the 1998 Yankees (62–19, .765), and miles better than the best LA-era home record (.679, 55–26), set in 2015. The franchise record for home winning percentage is .779 (60–17) set at Ebbets Field in 1953, while the major league record is .805 (62–15) by the 1932 Yankees.
Seventeen straight games with a homer
Even in that June 15 loss, the Dodgers hit a home run, so they've now homered in 17 straight games, matching the Los Angeles era record set in 1960 (though they went just 8–9 in that stretch) but still a ways off the franchise record of 24, set in Brooklyn in 1953 (they went just 13–11 then, but did wind up winning the NL pennant). The major league record for consecutive games with a homer is 27, set by the 2002 Rangers; last year, the Padres and Cardinals became the third and fourth teams since 1953 to homer in 25 straight games; the 1994 Tigers and 1998 Braves did so as well.
Sunday's win over the Rockies featured yet another two-homer game by rookie Cody Bellinger, his sixth of the season. The 21-year-old rookie, who had just three games at Triple A prior to this year, didn’t figure to contribute to the big club until later this season, but he leads the NL with 24 despite having not debuted until April 25, the Dodgers' 21st game of the season. Note that that was just before the aforementioned 55-game streak kicked off.
With the two-homer game, Bellinger passed Mike Piazza to take over the team rookie record in that category, set in 1993, and he's one shy of the major league rookie record, set my Mark McGwire in 1987. If he matches that, he'll tie Duke Snider (1956) and Adrian Beltre (2004) for the franchise record for the season, but he's got a ways to go to get the major league record of 11, set by Hank Greenberg in 1938 and matched by Sammy Sosa in 1998.
A Walk in the Park, Finally
Sunday's win also featured something that hadn't happened yet in the 2017 season: a walk issued by Jansen. Perhaps discombobulated by his offensive outburst, he fell behind Nolan Arenado with three straight balls with one out in the ninth, and while he battled back to a full count, he couldn't get the slugging third baseman to chase a 92 mph cutter in the dirt. The walk came in Jansen's 33rd inning of work this season, after he had whiffed 50 of the 114 hitters he had faced without issuing a free pass. Via The Ringer's Ben Lindbergh, he had demolished the post-1950 record of 35 straight strikeouts without a walk to start the season, set by Adam Wainwright in 2013, but fell short of Curt Schilling (56 strikeouts without a walk in 2002) and Greg Maddux (53 straight in 2001) for the longest such streaks at any time in a season.
23 on the shelf—and counting
Last year's division title was remarkable in part due to the team's record-setting use of the disabled list. Their players made 33 trips to the DL, and among their starting pitchers, only Kenta Maeda emerged unscathed. The team erased an eight-game deficit in the NL West standings despite ace Clayton Kershaw missing 2 1/2 months due to a herniated disc in his back. This year, with MLB having shortened the minimum DL stay from 15 days to 10, the Dodgers have already sent 23 players to the DL; it could be 24 if Corey Seager winds up being added on Monday. Kershaw is the only Dodgers starter to take the ball every time through the rotation, with Brandon McCarthy the only other starter taking more than 12 turns (13, compared to Kershaw's 16).
However, this doesn't amount to a crisis. President of baseball operations Andrew Freedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi have cultivated a remarkable amount of depth thanks to the team's productive minor league system, their deep pockets, and a knack for surprising finds such as Andrew Toles and Chris Taylor. The latter, obtained last year in a swap with the Mariners for former first-round pick Zach Lee, is a 26-year-old utilityman who had just one major league homer in 218 PA from 2014–16. Filling in for second baseman Logan Forsythe, third baseman Justin Turner and centerfielder Joc Pederson during their turns on the DL, he has hit nine homers in 226 PA while batting .279/.372/.482. Bellinger, who first came up to fill in for multiple injuries in the outfield, stuck around when Toles tore his ACL and Adrian Gonzalez needed a stint for tendonitis in his elbow.
Flirting with .400
Speaking of Turner, whom the Dodgers re-signed this past winter to a four-year, $64 million deal, he recently reeled off a 14-game hitting streak that was cleaved in two by a three-week absence due to a right hamstring strain. In the last game of that streak, he went 4-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs against the Mets, his former team, and pushed his batting average to .399. He's "down" to a .393/.478/.555 line, with both the average and on-base percentage tops in the league via the phantom rule; based on the Dodgers' 77 games played, he needs 239 plate appearances (3.1 per game) to qualify for the title but has just 225. Even with an 0-for-14 tacked on, his average would still be higher than the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman's .350, and likewise for the .447 on-base percentage of the Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt. Since being non-tendered by the Mets following the 2013 season, Turner has hit .309/.380/.501 for a 140 OPS+.
Kershaw hasn't quite been his dominant self this year. Due in part to a career-worst 1.4 home runs per nine—including four homers allowed in a game for the first time in his career—his 2.47 ERA is "only" second in the league, though he has the circuit's highest innings and win totals (11 and 109 1/3, respectively). Picking up the slack to the greatest extent has been 26-year-old lefty Alex Wood, who owns a 1.86 ERA and 2.12 FIP through 67 2/3 innings, 9 1/3 short of qualifying for the league lead. In a year featuring record home run levels, he's allowed just two homers and is striking out a rotation-best 10.5 per nine.