Originally written on Baseball Prospectus  |  Last updated 11/9/14
Mlb_frank_mccourt_bc08

The Thursday Takeaway
A week ago, when the Dodgers put the finishing touches on a 7-6 win in their series opener against the White Sox, broadcaster Vin Scully was as captivated by their continued success as the fans watching on TV. That win was the 41st of the season for Los Angeles, then a league high, and after it, Scully—with all the eloquence you’d expect from the game’s best broadcaster—described “a Dodger team that is a wonder. You wonder how they do it.”

With his roster ravaged by injuries—most notably Matt Kemp’s hamstring, which has sidelined him essentially since mid-May—manager Don Mattingly fielded a lineup that could have made even the most optimistic fan cringe. Leadoff man Dee Gordon entered with an on-base percentage of .279. He was followed by Elian Herrera, a minor-league veteran getting his first look at the age of 27. And yes, that was indeed Jerry Hairston, Jr., of the .702 career OPS, batting fifth.

Yet, somehow, the Dodgers produced seven runs that day. The deciding one came around to score on a wild pitch by Matt Thornton in the bottom of the eighth, before closer Kenley Jansen slammed the door. Call it luck, call it finding a way, or call it—as Scully did—a wonder.

Heading into this weekend’s battle of Los Angeles at the Big A, the Dodgers still own the National League’s best record at 42-28, but they are coming off a sweep in Oakland during which their run-scoring magic began to wear. The Dodgers plated just two runs in the three-game set and have scored only eight in five games since that 7-6 win. They are the only major-league team without a home run in the last week, and they are batting a lowly .193/.254/.241 as a team over that span.

Kemp should be activated shortly after the All-Star Break, but the Dodgers will play 17 games in 17 days before that four-day rest. The schedule makers did not do them any favors, either, as that batch includes the crosstown Halos, the rival Giants—who are now four games back in the NL West—the equally surprising Mets, the NL Central-leading Reds, and the Diamondbacks, who are within a game of .500 after an 11-7 start to the month of June.

The next two and a half weeks may prove the most difficult test of the season for Don Mattingly’s team, which has played the league’s easiest schedule to date and must now meet a formidable challenge. If Herrera, Hairston, and A.J. Ellis can keep the Dodgers atop the division standings through July 8, Kemp’s return could carry them the rest of the way.

What to Watch for This Weekend

  • The Rays and Phillies meet at Citizens Bank Park this weekend in a rematch of the 2008 World Series. James Shields, who won Game Two of that Fall Classic for Tampa Bay, takes the mound against Cliff Lee, who is still searching for his first win of the season, in tonight’s opener (7:05 p.m. ET).
  • After four tune-up starts in the minors, Roy Oswalt is ready to return to the majors as a member of the Rangers. His first assignment comes in the first game of a three-game series against the Rockies this evening (8:05 p.m. ET). Oswalt pitched six innings of two-run ball in his most recent outing for Triple-A Round Rock on June 17, striking out five and walking one. He is 8-2 with a 1.94 ERA in 12 career starts versus Colorado.
  • In three games against the Mariners this week, Aaron Hill raised his OPS by 86 points, from .782 to .868. The Diamondbacks second baseman went 8-for-12 in that series, with a home run and a double in each of the three games, becoming the first player to accomplish that feat since Evan Longoria in 2008. He’ll try to become the first player to do it in four straight since Jim Edmonds in 2003 when the D’backs take on Jeff Samardzija and the Cubs tonight (9:40 p.m. ET).
  • Max Scherzer, who fanned 12 Rockies in his last start, gets another chance to rack up the K’s on Saturday (4:05 p.m. ET) in the middle match of the three-game set between the Tigers and the Pirates. Fifteen of Scherzer’s 100 strikeouts this season came in the previous meeting between those two teams, and three of those were courtesy of Pedro Alvarez. Scherzer may have a tougher time with the Pittsburgh third baseman this time around, though, as Alvarez is a remarkable 11-for-17 with five homers and three walks in five games coming into the series.
  • Cancel any plans you have for Sunday night: It’s CC Sabathia versus R.A. Dickey in the series finale between the Yankees and the Mets at Citi Field. Jason Collette wrote about Dickey’s incredible run of what Kevin Goldstein described as “throwing up Verlander lines” earlier this week. You won’t want to miss the Cy Young hopefuls locking horns on national TV (8:00 p.m. ET).
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Jameis Winston cleared in code of conduct case

Sherman: Patrick Peterson would be benched on Seahawks

Fans struck by lightning after Buccaneers-Packers game

Report: Philip Rivers playing through painful back injury

Report: Bears could have interest in Jim Harbaugh

Report: Shanahan interested in coaching next season

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Report: Michigan has its eye on several NFL coaches

Report: Titans, Jay Cutler have mutual interest in trade

Phillies GM told Ryan Howard team is better off without him

Report: Browns interested in drafting Marcus Mariota

Chargers keep playoff hopes alive with comeback win

Robin Lopez responds to Khloe Kardashian dating rumors

WATCH: Three players ejected after Giants-Rams fight

WATCH: Dominic Raiola stomps on Bears player's ankle

WATCH: Arian Foster throws TD pass, drops scoreboard taunt

WATCH: Johnny Manziel leaves with injury after taking big hit

NHL has warned 22 players about diving

Nick Mangold wears NYDP hat to honor fallen officers

Five things we learned from the first day of bowl games

WATCH: South Alabama coach bloodied after kick to the face

Dan Mullen wears funny 'Christmas Vacation' sweater

WATCH: Redskins FB gets in Eagles fan's face after TD

WATCH: Utah runs trick play on first offensive play of game

Mick Cronin misses game with unruptured aneurysm

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Raiola stomps on Bears player's ankle

Bears interested in Jim Harbaugh?

Shanahan to return to 2015?

Browns interested in drafting Mariota?

Mullen wears funny Christmas sweater

RG3 returning to Redskins?

Tom Izzo hot after bad loss

Kings, Nets talking Deron Williams trade

WATCH: DeSean mocks Eagles

Vick: Winston is the future of the NFL

No NFL team in LA next season?

UNC rocking Jordan-era throwbacks

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.