The possible World Series preview was a completely one-sided affair, as Clayton Kershaw led the Dodgers to an 8-2 win and a three-game sweep of the Rays. The win, coupled with another loss by the Diamondbacks to the Mets, increased the lead in the NL West to 7 1/2 games.
We all know how fantastic Kershaw is, but coming into this game with a 10-7 record, it was obvious that his offense doesn't always back him up. The Dodgers made sure to change that tune on Sunday Night Baseball.
In the second, Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis each led off with singles. Juan Uribe tried to bunt his way on and narrowly missed, but both runners did advance. After a strikeout by Dee Gordon (who was abysmal this game - more on that in a bit), Kershaw stroked a two-run single to right to make it 2-0.
Carl Crawford kept the inning going with a single, and Mark Ellis started his big night with an RBI double for the 3-0 advantage.
Another run was added in the fourth, and it all started on a leadoff double from Yasiel Puig. Two sacrifice flies by Ethier and Ellis later, it was 4-0.
After Kershaw struck out a couple in the fourth, the Dodgers again scored in the bottom half. Jeremy Hellickson was already in the showers as Alex Torres took the mound, and Gordon had his only good play of the night with a bunt single leading off. An out later, Crawford took a walk, and then with two outs, Adrian Gonzalez smashed a two-run double to center to make it 6-0.
When the fifth started, Kershaw had yet to allow a hit, but Yunel Escobar changed that with a leadoff single, and then advanced to second when Crawford misplayed the ball in left. Kershaw got the next two hitters grounding out, but Sam Fuld's RBI triple into right just eluded a diving Puig, and it was 6-1.
The last big blow of the game came from Mark Ellis, who crushed a two-run homer to left in the sixth to make it 8-1. This game continued his impressive hitting since the All-Star break, as his average has risen from .255 to .280. That, in addition to his always stellar defensive, shows just how valuable he is to this team.
The only real trouble Kershaw had on the night came when the Rays loaded the bases with nobody out in the eighth. Jose Lobaton walked, James Loney pinch-hit and singled, and Jason Bourgeois reached on ANOTHER error from Gordan. Kershaw then struck out Sean Rodriguez looking, got Wil Myers to hit a sac-fly RBI to deep left, and induced a grounder by Evan Longoria to force Loney at third.
Carlos Marmol got the Rays in order to finish off the sweep.
One day after Zack Greinke shut down the Rays' offense, Kershaw picked up right where he left off. Despite some absolutely atrocious defense from Gordon, he went eight innings for three hits, two runs (one earned), two walks, and eight strikeouts. He was so dominant he actually lowered his ERA to 1.88, by far the best in baseball.
Then there was the offense, which got production all up and down the lineup as every starter got a hit. In addition to the big day by Ellis, Crawford had two more hits, raising his average over the last 10 games from .278 to .296, safely hitting in eight of those. Puig took another walk and hit a double. A.J. Ellis had two hits and a sac-fly. All in all, it was another hugely successful day from the big bats and role players.
Then there's the story of Gordon, who had two hits. That was about all he did, as he looked awful in the field with three errors on two bad throws and a bobble. Heck, he was downright embarrassing at times. He has the speed, and looks like he has a pretty strong arm, but unfortunately looks to be nothing more than a good Triple-A player. Hanley Ramirez says he'll be back as early as Monday night, so Gordon's time at short may already be up. Good riddance.
The dominating win on Sunday ended the recent seven-game stretch over the Cardinals and Rays at 6-1. Those are two legit playoff teams, so it's a fantastic record. Even better? The next several series during August are against the Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Red Sox, Cubs, and Padres. With the exception of the Red Sox (who do have to come to Dodger Stadium for three), this schedule looks more than favorable.
So, while this run is extremely hard to keep up (20-3 since the break, 37-8 in the last 45), it's not against thinking that they'll at least continue to win a lot and keep up the lead in the NL West, if not increase it. The month of September is all division play, save for a three-game series against the Reds, so getting a comfortable lead in the division is important.
Next up is three games against the Mets, who are missing David Wright, yet played very well against the DBacks and have Matt Harvey going on Tuesday. On Monday, it will be Ricky Nolasco looking to give the Dodgers six straight wins.