The Dodgers finally are the team we thought they'd be. That is, airtight pitching and a resourceful offense. Funny how a team turns things around after its best player walks back on the field. Good on ya, Justin Turner.That Dave Roberts held his team together through a hellishly bad period
The Dodgers finally are the team we thought they'd be. That is, airtight pitching and a resourceful offense. Funny how a team turns things around after its best player walks back on the field. Good on ya, Justin Turner.
That Dave Roberts held his team together through a hellishly bad period -- does 16-26 qualify as hellishly bad? -- is one of the ultimate tests for a manager. Roberts had passed plenty of tests already, and this is another.
We're constantly warned that small snapshots prove very little. On the other hand, lots of managers divide seasons into blocks of games and set small -- and usually secret -- goals for each block.
The Dodgers aren't the only team that has recovered from a tough start to play its best baseball of the season. Rather than draw larger conclusions, let's just call it Trending Upward.
Here are five teams doing just that:
What they're doing: 9-2 since May 17.
Key stat: 2.00 ERA, best in the National League during the 9-2 hot stretch.
Who's hot: Matt Kemp .457 BA, 1 HR, 6 2B; Yasiel Puig .346, BA, 3 HR; Kenta Maeda 2-0, 0.00 ERA; Thomas Stripling 2-0, 0.71 ERA; Walker Buehler 1-0, 1.29 ERA; Kenley Jansen 6 saves, 0.00 ERA.
Bottom line: Turner's return gave the whole team a familiar look. Hey, the guy strikes an impressive figure. Beyond that, the Dodgers have been led by Stripling, Kemp and Buehler, which reaffirms president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman's philosophy of focusing on accumulating depth all around the diamond. The Dodgers still need Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger to get untracked and may even need to go outside the organization to acquire a hitter. But for the first time this season, they seem on their way to winning a sixth consecutive NL West title.
What they're doing: 19-7 since April 30.
Key stat: Bullpen's 2.45 ERA is the best in the Majors during this stretch. Offense has produced 134 runs in this time, most in the NL.
Who's hot: Righty Josh Hader has 31 strikeouts in 16 innings of this hot streak. Matt Albers (0.77 ERA), Jeremy Jeffress (0.00) and Hader (1.13) have been tremendous. First baseman Jesus Aguilar and third baseman Travis Shaw have eight homers apiece. Outfielders Lorenzo Cain (.387 OBP) and Christian Yelich (.391 OBP) have been as good as the Brewers hoped they'd be.
Bottom line: Is there enough starting pitching? That's the question generral manager David Stearns has had to answer about eight dozen times since the start of Spring Training. Right-handers Jhoulys Chacin and Junior Guerra have been excellent, and righties Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta are quality depth at Triple-A. To get ace Jimmy Nelson back from shoulder surgery in the second half would be huge.
What they're doing: 9-1 since May 18.
Key stat: 0.33 ERA for bullpen during the 9-1 stretch is easily the best in Majors; 7-1 in one-run games.
Who's hot: The relievers have been virtually perfect during this stretch. Closer Edwin Diaz leads the way with seven shutout innings in seven appearances. James Paxton, Mike Leake and Marco Gonzales are stringing together quality starts.
Bottom line: Did we mention that Seattle is gorgeous in October? The Mariners may be offensively challenged, but with this kind of pitching, no one is likely to notice. With second baseman Robinson Cano suspended for 80 games, GM Jerry Dipoto's acquisition of center fielder Denard Span and the probable return of second baseman Dee Gordon from the disabled list in the next week or so will help the offense. Will it be enough? Why not?
What they're doing: 19-6 since an 11-16 start.
Key stat: 2.48 ERA, best in the Majors during the turnaround.
Who's hot: Left-hander Giovany Gonzalez 4-0, 1.43 ERA; right-hander Max Scherzer 3-0, 2.76 ERA; righty Stephen Strasburg 4-1, 2.51; righty Jeremy Hellickson 1-0, 0.79 ERA (4 starts); first baseman Matt Adams 9 HR.
Bottom line: This is who we thought they were. Few teams have been hit harder by injuries, but as long as they've got this starting rotation, the Nationals remain solid favorites to win the NL East again. The Braves, Phillies and Mets may be capable of pushing the race into September, but they could help the Nats better prepare for October.
What they're doing: 22-13 since a 4-13 start.
Key stat: 3.59 ERA, second lowest in the American League East.
Who's hot: Right-hander Blake Snell 4-2, 2.70 ERA; left-hander Jonny Venters 1.04 ERA; designated hitter/first baseman C.J. Cron 9 HR; catcher Wilson Ramos .352 BA.
Bottom line: To survive a bad start in one of baseball's toughest divisions while the lineup gets younger and younger speaks well for the Rays to stay in the mix for the long haul. GM Erik Neander's mix-and-match approach to the pitching staff has worked, thanks, in part, to manager Kevin Cash's ability to sell the concept to an occasionally skeptical clubhouse.
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice