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Dodgers poised for sustained success

LA gains separation in standings with sweep of D-backs
MLB.com @boomskie

LOS ANGELES -- The All-Star break begins Monday, and with 58 wins each, the Dodgers and Astros are on a blistering pace to run away with their respective leagues.

The Dodgers are 44-17 since April, and Thursday night's come-from-behind stunner in the ninth, with four runs off D-backs closer Fernando Rodney for a 5-4 win at Dodger Stadium, was really a microcosm of their season to date.

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LOS ANGELES -- The All-Star break begins Monday, and with 58 wins each, the Dodgers and Astros are on a blistering pace to run away with their respective leagues.

The Dodgers are 44-17 since April, and Thursday night's come-from-behind stunner in the ninth, with four runs off D-backs closer Fernando Rodney for a 5-4 win at Dodger Stadium, was really a microcosm of their season to date.

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"It was, it was," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "Every night, it's somebody different. And that is the sign of a really good team."

On Thursday night, it was Chris Taylor, who went 4-for-5 with two doubles and singled in the winning run off T.J. McFarland who replaced Rodney. The right-handed closer faced six batters, walked four and didn't get anyone out.

Video: ARI@LAD: Taylor laces a walk-off single to left

It was a devastating loss for the D-backs, a 52-win team that was swept in a series for the first time all season, losing all three games by one run. They now trail the first-place Dodgers by 5 1/2 games in the National League West.

"We let [Rodney] make his own grave right there," Roberts said. "Just our patience and the continued fight."

The Dodgers have three games against the Royals beginning at home on Friday night, while the Astros finish a four-game series against the Blue Jays at Toronto.

If the second half is as potent as the first, both teams have a shot at the record of 116 regular-season wins set by the Cubs in 1906 and tied in 2001 by the Mariners.

"That's not even on our radar," Roberts said. "All we're thinking about -- and this is the honest to God truth -- is winning every game, and I think that will all take care of itself. We can't control that right now, and I think that the thing that we've been doing is focusing on each day."

Video: ARI@LAD: Roberts talks dramatic walk-off victory

The Dodgers have taken advantage of the lopsided nature of the NL with only five of the 15 teams over .500, three of them in the West.

Aside from the Dodgers, the Nationals, D-backs and Rockies have all won 50 or more games. The Brewers, who lead the Central with 48 wins, are the other team over .500.

Over in the American League, the Astros are the only team with more than 50 wins, although eight teams are over .500. Houston has nine more wins than second-best Boston, which leads the East with 48.

Roberts said the entire pattern of play right now is a tad strange.

"It is," he said. "I think that you never how this thing is going to play out and obviously, we have a long way to go. A.J. [Hinch] is one of my very best friends. I'm excited for him and the Astros. You look at our clubs, they're very similar in the sense that we have young, positional players, athletic. They can beat you in a lot of different ways.

"And so, I like our club, he likes their club. It's interesting that the teams you would have expected to be there haven't started off well and there are some surprise teams. But we're playing good baseball."

Hinch, Houston's manager, was the assistant general manager of the Padres under general manager Josh Byrnes when Roberts was the bench coach for manager Bud Black, now skipper of the 50-win Rockies.

The Rockies and D-backs, under first-year manager Torey Lovullo, are certainly the surprises. Arizona lost 93 games a year ago and Colorado dropped 87. Both teams made managerial changes and the D-backs also cleaned out their baseball operations department.

The Giants and Mets collapsed under the weight of injuries and have severely underperformed. Meanwhile, the defending World Series-champion Cubs are under .500 and recently designated and then traded catcher Miguel Montero because of a clubhouse rift.

The Dodgers have taken advantage of the situation and have positioned themselves well to win the West for the fifth year in a row.

Video: ARI@LAD: Seager knocks game-tying two-run single

After a lackluster 14-12 April, the Dodgers have gained 7 1/2 games in the standings. They made a statement the last two weeks by sweeping the upstart D-backs and Rockies in three-game sets at home. This loss stung, Lovullo said.

"Look, we're very proud of the 52 wins," he said. "But we know a lot can change in three months of baseball. We just want to keep playing our brand of baseball. These guys have earned everything they've done in these 52 wins. We're in a very good spot. We've just got to stay with what we've done."

The D-backs haven't won the division nor made the postseason since 2011. The Giants and Dodgers have captured every NL West title since. The Dodgers, it should be noted, haven't won or even been back to the World Series since 1988.

Last year, the Dodgers won 91 games with a tattered starting rotation and succumbed to the Cubs in a six-game NL Championship Series. They've lost in the NLCS four times since 2008.

This year's team is better than last year's, Roberts said, even without the injured Adrian Gonzalez.

"I think it is," Roberts said. "I'm not going to get into the whys of it, but I think it is."

The way they're playing now, it's hard to argue the point.

Heading into the media room after the game, Roberts said he was ready to turn the page on the evening's festivities.

"Time to get ready for Kansas City," he said.

Roberts was only half kidding.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter.

Los Angeles Dodgers