For only the fifth time in franchise history, the Dodgers have won 60 games before the All-Star break.
This time, he took a winding route to reach there.
His best starter, Walker Buehler, and reliever, Blake Trainen, suffered serious injuries.
Clayton Kershaw, a former Most Valuable player, was sidelined for a month. Another, Mookie Bates, was out for two weeks. A third, Cody Bellinger, has probably been his worst hitter.
His future Hall-of-Fame close, Craig Kimbrel, has been one of his least reliable bullpen weapons.
Less than a month ago, he wasn’t even leading his division.
And yet …
They finished the first half in a flurry of 20 wins from 25 games, entering the All-Star break after beating the Angels 7-1 for their fourth straight win on Saturday night.
He has the best record at 60–30 in the National League and a 9½-game lead in the National League West, away from the struggling San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants.
And he has five All-Stars, with Tyler Anderson joining the mix as an NL replacement on Saturday after his 10-win debut in the season, and a 2.96 earned-run average.
“We’ve done a really good job,” said manager Dave Roberts. “I expect to be first; we all do. But how we get there is what’s most important. No one frets about losing key pieces. We just have to keep going and put on the blinds.” So this break is coming at the right time.”
On Saturday afternoon, Roberts gave his team an overall A-minus grade for their first-half performance. By the end of the night, they would have pushed up that mark a little further.
Left-hander Julio Urius, one of several All-Star snubs on the roster, conceded just one run in seven strong innings, bringing his ERA to 2.89 and the Dodgers MLB-best team starting to pitch ERA to 2.77.
The lineup scored four home runs: two from Tree Turner, his 11th career multihomer game; Max Munsi’s three-run blast, which came during the third innings of a five-run knock, threw the game out of reach; and a solo drive from Freddie Freeman, which earned him his 1,000th career RBI.
They reach the break with the second-most runs scored in the majors and the second-highest team on a base-plus-slugging percentage.
After battling for the division during the second half of last year — unsuccessfully, finishing second only to the Giants despite 106 victories — the Dodgers also have a highly sought-after breathing room in the standings. His division lead is the third highest in baseball. In addition, they have a five-game lead over the top-two seed in the NL, which will guarantee a bye in this year’s reconfigured playoff format in the Division Series.
“We’ve obviously played really well,” Turner said. “The records and the standings show that. But we’re not satisfied. I think we want to get better and continue to play good baseball.”
There are still ways for Dodgers to do this.
They have a number of injured pitchers, from Buehler and Trainen to Bruiser Gretroll, Dustin May and Tommy Kahl, hoping to return for stretch runs and the playoffs.
They may be looking to add next month’s trade deadline, with everything from another starting pitcher — they’re already linked to Cincinnati Reds All-Star Luis Castillo — among their potential needs for extra depth on the bench. For.
But, even after the imperfection of the first half of the season, which included early clashes against the division’s foes, a brief slump in mid-May, a month of offensive malaise during June, and injuries notably above and below the pitching staff. Involved, the Dodgers find themselves in an enviable position as the break for the Midsummer Classic.
“Sixty wins is a lot of wins in the first half,” Freeman said. “We have been playing very good baseball for some time now. Sometimes you don’t want the all-star break to come. But I think we can all use the rest.”
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.