Not only are the Los Angeles Dodgers thinking about winning the NL West, they’ve also unbelievably put themselves into position for home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Los Angeles (63-56) looks to win for the 17th time in 18 games on Tuesday night when it continues a three-game series against the Florida Marlins at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers posted a 4-2 victory on Monday to win their fifth straight and post the franchise’s first 16-1 stretch since relocating from Brooklyn in 1958. They lead second-place San Diego by 2 1/2 games after trailing the Padres by 7 1/2 on July 26.
“It’s pretty amazing, especially having lost 12 out of 13,” said starter Derek Lowe, who earned the win Monday night. “I’m not really a history buff, but I wouldn’t imagine there had been too many teams that had lost 12 out of 13 and won as many as we have.”
The surge has also pulled Los Angeles into a virtual tie with struggling NL Central leader St. Louis. The Dodgers could open the playoffs at home if they win the division and finish ahead of the Central champion, something no one with the club was thinking about a few weeks back.
“We had two weeks that were horrific, but we never lost faith in the club and the club never lost faith in themselves,” general manager Ned Colletti said. “The end of July was not the time to say, ‘When does ’07 start?”’
Los Angeles has received outstanding pitching during its hot stretch, posting a 2.40 team ERA. Lowe was the latest starter to turn in a strong effort, going seven innings and allowing one run and four hits.
Rookie Chad Billingsley (3-3, 3.52 ERA) is up next in the rotation for Los Angeles and seeks his third straight win. Billingsley is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA over his last three starts.
The 22-year-old right-hander has struck out 15 but also issued 14 walks over his last 17 innings. He gave up one run and three hits and walked six batters over five innings last Thursday, failing to receive a decision in a 4-3 victory over Colorado.
Billingsley is facing the Marlins (55-63) for the second time after allowing one run and three hits over six innings in a 10-2 victory on Aug. 5.
Nomar Garciaparra homered for the first time since July 13 and drove in three runs for the Dodgers on Monday. Garciaparra is 7-for-17 since being activated off the disabled list last Wednesday.
Florida (55-63) is 0-4 against Los Angeles this season. The Marlins have scored a total of only nine runs in those games and star third baseman Miguel Cabrera has gone 2-for-15.
The Marlins are 5 1/2 games behind NL wild card leader Cincinnati in what was expected to be a rebuilding year.
“We’re not at .500 yet,” reliever Matt Herges said. “But the baseball world said, ‘They’re going to lose 100 games, at least, and it’s going to be a joke.’ They were talking about people coming off the street and winning jobs on this team. But it’s definitely far from a joke.”
Florida will start rookie Anibal Sanchez (4-2, 4.13), who is 0-2 with a 6.61 ERA over his last three starts. The right-hander lost to the Dodgers on Aug. 4, when he gave up three runs and six hits over six innings in a 6-2 loss at Miami.