The Dodgers had 18 outs to give, but they were in a perilous spot in the bottom of the second inning on Saturday afternoon. After hitting three first-inning home runs off of L.A. starter Rich Hill, the Mets threatened with runners on first and second and nobody out in the top of the second. But Hill, the NL Pitcher of the Month in July, struck out Michael Conforto (who had homered in the first), induced a lazy fly ball from Asdrubal Cabrera and struck out Yoenis Cespedes to end the inning. A 3–0 deficit remained just that, and Hill would only allow two baserunners for the rest of his outing.
The problem was the Dodgers couldn’t figure out Mets starter Seth Lugo, who was either forcing L.A. into soft contact or striking its hitters out (he finished with seven for the game). He lost his no-hit bid in the fifth, and entered the sixth inning with a three-run cushion.
And then the Dodgers did to the New York what they’ve done to seemingly everyone this season. In a span of four batters, they tied the game 3–3 thanks to a solo homer by Chris Taylor (his third consecutive game with a dinger) and a two-run shot by rookie sensation Cody Bellinger (his 31st of the season). That forced Lugo from the game, and thanks to a Yasiel Puig solo homer in the seventh, a Justin Turner solo shot in the eighth, and a Corey Seager two-run moonshot in the ninth, the Dodgers secured a 7–4 win over the Mets and their 43rd win in their last 50 games, the best 50-game stretch of any team since the 1912 New York Giants.
L.A. is now on pace to win 115 games, a head-spinning figure that hasn’t been touched since the 2001 Mariners finished 116–46. The Dodgers currently sit at 78–32 and are 68–20 since April 26th. The stats only get sillier from there: After losing to the Padres on July 2nd, L.A. has swept six series (seven if it wins again tomorrow) and has lost to only one team (three total losses to the Atlanta Braves) during that span. The team has won 23 of its last 26, and that is after it already logged a 10-game winning streak this season.
Saturday’s win over the Mets was a clinical example in why the Dodgers are so difficult to beat. Even when they’re down, they can vanquish leads in an instant. They have an astonishing 96 homers during the current 50-game stretch and are fourth in all of baseball with 161 longballs. They’ve received 46 home runs this season from two starters (Taylor and Bellinger) who began the season in Triple-A. The team’s leading hitter (Justin Turner) entered Saturday’s game mired in a 4-for-30 (.133) slump, and it finished with an 8–1 record anyway. Corey Seager, the 2016 Rookie of the Year, is 15 for his last 32 and has improved his slash line to .306/.397/.593. Clayton Kershaw, widely considered the best pitcher in baseball, has been shelved since July 23 and they’ve lost one game.
The Dodgers’ team ERA is 3.09, almost a half-run ahead of the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks (3.52 entering their Saturday night matchup against the Giants), and the bullpen ERA was 2.95 entering Saturday’s game, which trailed only the Indians. Despite being the best regular-season team entering the trade deadline, the Dodgers traded for the best starting pitcher on the market in Yu Darvish, and he debuted Friday night with a three-hit, zero-run, 10-strikeout performance. Left-handed reliever Tony Watson, acquired from the Pirates at the trade deadline, debuted Saturday; he struck out his first two hitters and then got Neil Walker to ground out … to the catcher. The winning pitcher, Brandon Morrow, had pitched in 23 total games in 2015 and 2016 with the San Diego Padres; he’s pitched in 23 games this season for the Dodgers and has an ERA of 1.82, one of three regular Dodger relievers (Pedro Baez and closer Kenley Jansen are the others) who have ERAs below 2.
It’s easy to quantify why the Dodgers are dominating everybody right now: they are the league’s best team feasting on a weak schedule (they haven’t played a team with a current winning record since the Royals on July 9th). But as they proved in their last two wins against the Mets, they are a team with no visible weaknesses. They’ll usually start a better pitcher than the opposition, they can outslug you, they defend well, they seldom blow leads in the late innings and they have one of the game’s best closers in Kenley Jansen. If a team can’t get an early five-run lead, the Dodgers are a tough team to beat.
Manager Dave Roberts is having the best second season of any manager in recent memory, but his job now is to punctuate a superb regular season with at least a pennant—something the Dodgers haven’t won since 1988—and a World Series win. Before the nerves kick in for the fan base and front office czars Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi, perhaps they can take time to revel in one of the greatest regular seasons in recent memory. With 55 games left, all that’s left is to determine what more this team can do.