Dodgers look to stay hot as Giants come to town

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
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The Los Angeles Dodgers will look to stay hot as the Giants come to town.

Put the Los Angeles Dodgers in the category of a team that was playing some of its best baseball going into the All-Star break, with a chance to resume that trend when play resumes Thursday.

It will be a pair of West Coast rivals going at it when the visiting San Francisco Giants head south to meet the National League’s top team in the Dodgers.

The Dodgers closed out their pre-break schedule on a four-game winning streak, while also winning 11 of their last 12 and 15 of their last 17. At 60-30, the Dodgers are 3 1/2 games better than the second-best team in the National League, the New York Mets.

Los Angeles is also 10 games up in the NL West over the San Diego Padres and 12 1/2 better than the Giants. Despite all of their success to open the season, though, the Dodgers were swept in a three-game series at San Francisco in June the last time the teams met.

Since then, though, Los Angeles is 23-7, while San Francisco has gone 15-17.

The Dodgers had six players on the NL roster of Tuesday’s All-Star Game, including three pitchers in Clayton Kershaw, Tony Gonsolin and Tyler Anderson. Manager Dave Roberts hinted that right-hander Mitch White would pitch in one of the early games against the Giants since he did not have All-Star duties, although Anderson was not used in Tuesday’s game.

“You look the last three weeks and we played a lot of great team baseball,” Roberts said. “We caught it, we pitched well (and) offensively we came through together, one through nine. A lot of good things. To finish the way we did (on the schedule) was very encouraging.”

The biggest test between the Dodgers and Giants is yet to come. Including the upcoming four-game series, the teams will meet eight times over the next two weeks, with 14 games scheduled between each other through Sept. 18.

While the Giants have not resembled the team that won an impressive 107 games last season to end the Dodgers’ division title run at eight consecutive seasons, they did win five of six heading into the break and seven of their last nine.

A pair of newcomers to the Giants were All-Stars, as Joc Pederson was voted a starter in the outfield, while left-hander Carlos Rodon joined him on the squad. Pederson will make his second trip to Los Angeles with the Giants, not counting his appearance in the All-Star Game.

Pederson’s damage against the Dodgers this season has been minimal with a .250 batting average in the five games (two starts) and no extra-base hits with two RBIs.

Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford (knee) is on the injured list for the second time this season, with third baseman Evan Longoria and first baseman Brandon Belt also spending time on the IL in the first half. The injuries have taken a toll on the Giants’ lineup construction.

“Part of our first-half inconsistency is inconsistency with the lineup,” Crawford said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “Hopefully, we can get everyone healthy in the second half and take off.”

Yankees star Judge hits 62nd homer to break Maris’ AL record

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers - Game Two
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ARLINGTON, Texas – Aaron Judge hit his 62nd home run of the season Tuesday night, breaking Roger Maris’ American League record and setting what some fans consider baseball’s “clean” standard.

The 30-year-old Yankees slugger drove a 1-1 slider from Texas right-hander Jesus Tinoco into the first couple of rows of seats in left field when leading off the second game of New York’s day-night doubleheader.

Maris’ 61 for the Yankees in 1961 had been exceeded six times previously, but all were tainted by the stench of steroids. Mark McGwire hit 70 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 and 65 the following year. Barry Bonds hit an MLB-record 73 for the San Francisco Giants in 2001, and the Chicago Cubs’ Sammy Sosa had 66, 65 and 63 during a four-season span starting in 1998.

McGwire admitted using banned steroids, while Bonds and Sosa denied knowingly using performing-enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball started testing with penalties for PEDs in 2004, and some fans – perhaps many – until now have considered Maris as holder of the legitimate record.

A Ruthian figure with a smile as outsized as his body, the 6-foot-7 Judge has rocked the major leagues with a series of deep drives that hearken to the sepia tone movie reels of his legendary pinstriped predecessors.

“He should be revered for being the actual single-season home run champ,” Roger Maris Jr. said Wednesday night after his father’s mark was matched by Judge. “I think baseball needs to look at the records and I think baseball should do something.”

Judge had homered only once in the past 13 games, and that was when he hit No. 61 last Wednesday in Toronto. The doubleheader nightcap in Texas was his 55th game in row played since Aug. 5.

After a single in five at-bats in the first game Tuesday, Judge was 3 for 17 with five walks and a hit by pitch since moving past the 60 home runs Babe Ruth hit in 1927, which had stood as the major league record for 34 years. Maris hit his 61st off Boston’s Tracy Stallard at old Yankee Stadium on Oct. 1, 1961.

Judge has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He leads the AL with 131 RBIs and began the day trailing Minnesota’s Luis Arraez, who was hitting .315.

The home run in his first at-bat put him back to .311, where he had started the day before dropping a point in the opener.

Judge’s accomplishment will cause endless debate.

“To me, the holder of the record for home runs in a season is Roger Maris,” author George Will said earlier this month. “There’s no hint of suspicion that we’re seeing better baseball than better chemistry in the case of Judge. He’s clean. He’s not doing something that forces other players to jeopardize their health.”