Professional Sports

SPORTS DIGEST: Streaking Dodgers are on record-breaking pace

LOS ANGELES — Four years ago, the Dodgers woke up on June 22 with a 30-42 record, nine and a half games out of first place and losers of nine of their last 12 games.

The Dodgers won that night and began playing like the team with the highest payroll in baseball should play. They won 42 of their next 50 games, took over the lead in the National League West and coasted into the playoffs, where they lost to the Cardinals in the National League Championship Series.

That year’s Dodgers had been bothered by early season injuries, particularly to the pitching staff, shortstop Hanley Ramirez and outfielder Matt Kemp.

On June 3, the Dodgers called up Yasiel Puig from the minor leagues. Ramirez came off the disabled list and the starting rotation solidified behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. It still took almost three weeks for the Dodgers to go on their 42-8 run, but when that team clicked, it became a super team.

Only two teams have ever exceeded 42 wins in a 50-game span in the history of major league baseball. The 1906 Chicago Cubs went 45-5 and the 1912 New York Giants went 43-7.

The 1941 Yankees and the 1942 St. Louis Cardinals both equaled the 42-8 mark the Dodgers 2013 team posted.

I bring up 2013 because the Dodgers may be on their way to bettering that 50-game stretch.

Since they lost three straight games June 2-4, the Dodgers have won 30 of their last 34 games.

The Kansas City Royals in 1977 are the last team to win 30 of 34 games. Before that, it was the 1936 New York Giants.

If they win 12 of their next 16 they will equal the 42-8 streak of the 2013.

During this streak, the Dodgers have won 10 games in a row twice and six games in a row another time. They are winning at home and on the road, during the day and at night and, most importantly, they are beating left-handed pitchers as often as they are beating right-handers.

It seems like nothing will slow this juggernaut down.

On July 18 it was pitching. The Dodgers spotted Clayton Kershaw a run in the first inning and he made it stand up with help from Pedro Baez and Kenley Jansen. It was the team’s 10th shutout of the season, the best in baseball.

On July 14, the first game back from the all-star break, Puig was the hero, hitting two home runs, including a three-run shot in the top of the ninth inning that won the game, 6-4.

The next night it was this year’s phenom, Cody Bellinger, hitting for the cycle in a 7-1 rout over the hapless Miami Marlins.

Bellinger is only the third Dodger since they moved to Los Angeles to hit for the cycle. On the year, he is hitting .273 with 26 home runs and 62 runs batted in while trying to become the second consecutive Dodger to win the rookie of the year award, following in the steps of Corey Seager.

With a 10 and a half game lead on Arizona, the Dodgers don’t necessarily after to be active trade participants as the July 31 trade deadline approaches, but they could still close a couple of holes by going after another right-handed starting pitcher or a left-handed relief pitcher.

Neither Kenta Maeda or Brandon McCarthy have been consistent starters this year and the same can be said for Grant Dayton, Luis Avilan and Adam Liberatore out of the bullpen.

The Dodgers could get Andre Ethier and Adrian Gonzalez healthy, which would give the offense even more firepower.

The Dodgers also have the easiest schedule of all 30 major league teams the rest of the way. For now, all they need to do is keep their eyes on the goal and just keep playing the way they are playing.

Everything else should take care of itself.

Rookie forward Kyle Kuzma was a pleasant surprise for the Los Angeles Lakers summer league team in Las Vegas. Kuzma scored 30 points in the championship game to lead the Lakers past the Portland Trailblazers.
(Courtesy photo)

WINNING IS WINNING: Yes, it was only the Las Vegas Summer League, but after the last four seasons any kind of championship for the Lakers should be celebrated.

Most of the players who helped the Lakers win the title won’t be around when the regular season starts in October, but two players who will be, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, acquitted themselves well during the summer league.

Ball was voted the summer league most valuable player even though he missed two games. Kuzma was voted the most valuable player of the championship game against Portland July 17 after he scored 30 points to lead the team to a 110-98 victory while Ball watched in warmups from the sideline nursing a calf injury.

Kuzma, the 27th overall pick in the draft, has been a pleasant summer surprise. Kudos to Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, the Lakers new front-office brass, for drafting him.

Kuzma is listed at 6-9, 220 pounds. He started the last two season at the University of Utah, averaging 10.8 points a game as a sophomore and 16.4 as a senior when he was a first team all-Pac 12 selection.

Barring injury, Kuzma will be part of the Lakers 15-man roster when the season starts in October. He could be part of the rotation if he continues to impress.

If the season started today, the Lakers starting lineup would probably be Ball at point guard, newly acquired Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at shooting guard, second-year player Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle at the forwards and Brook Lopez at center.

Coming off the bench would be Jordan Clarkson at guard, Larry Nance Jr. at forward and Ivica Zubac at center.

Luol Deng, Corey Brewer and Metta World Peace (yes, he’s still on the roster) provide veteran leadership and Kuzma and fellow rookies Josh Hart and Thomas Bryant will battle for roster spots with Tyler Ennis and Thomas Robinson.

I still don’t think the Lakers will be a playoff team next year, but they should win 35 games and if Ball can really lead an NBA from the point, they might come close to a .500 record.

Unfortunately, that’s not good enough for the playoffs in the NBA Western Conference.