The Dodgers have erased a nine and a half game deficit in 21 days

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Less than a month ago, a lot of people were asking whether the Dodgers were in big trouble. Don Mattingly and Andre Ethier had a heated argument in the Dodgers dugout. Mattingly called his team “sh***y.” On June 8, they found themselves nine and a half games back of the Giants. This matched their biggest deficit of the 2013 season as well. Last year they went on a near-historic run to take control of the division and cruise into the playoffs. No such thing would happen again this year, would it? I mean, you can’t count and that kind of stuff happening two seasons in a row.

Except there they were when they went to bed last night, 21 days after getting to the bottom of that nine and a half game hole, tied for first place after winning 14 of 19 games.

On June 8, Clayton Kershaw helped the Dodgers beat Colorado 6-1. Yesterday he bookended things with a 13-strikeout performance. He has been a big part of the surge, going 6-0 with era of 0.82 in June and ending the month with a still-active 28-inning consecutive scoreless innings streak. Overall, Dodgers pitchers led the NL in team ERA for June with a 2.63 ERA.  Dodgers hitters were not as impressive, but you can be fifth in the NL in team OPS for a month when you got pitching like they have.

Also helping the Dodgers’ surge: the San Francisco Giants. They’ve been in a tailspin dropping 15 of 19 games. Their pitchers are 14th in the NL in ERA for the month, their hitters are eighth in OPS in June. Their defense has been among the worst in the NL. It’s going wrong for the Giants any way you slice it.

It may still be too much to ask for the Dodgers to replicate 2013. I mean, the surge so far has been nice, but it’d be hard to bet on them winning this division by 11 games again. The Giants won’t play this poorly all season. But no one saw that happening last year either. And as they’re showing at the moment, the Dodgers appear to have a higher gear the other teams don’t seem to have.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.

Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.

Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.

What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.

That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.