The Los Angeles Dodgers may not be able to pinpoint what sparked their turnaround, but they are sure enjoying the results.
The Dodgers (55-55) try for their third straight series sweep and ninth consecutive victory when they meet the Florida Marlins (51-59) in the finale of a three-game series at Dolphin Stadium on Sunday.
Los Angeles lost 13 of 14 following the All-Star break, scoring just 29 runs in that span and posting a team batting average of .222. Since then the Dodgers have won eight in a row, including Saturday’s 10-2 win over the Marlins.
The Dodgers are batting .313 and outscoring opponents 58-20 during their run.
“If I knew exactly what I did to pull this off, I would have done it before we lost 13 of 14,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said.
Los Angeles was eight games below .500 prior to this winning streak and sat in last place in the NL West, 7 1/2 games behind first-place San Diego. The Dodgers are now tied with Arizona for second place in the division, trailing the Padres by just two games. They have not won nine in a row since a 10-game winning streak from May 14-25, 2003.
Shortstop Rafael Furcal has had a lot to do with the offensive surge. He went 2-for-4 with a three-run triple on Saturday and is batting .440 (22-for-50) with 12 RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak.
The Los Angeles pitching staff has also been excellent, posting a 2.50 ERA during the current winning streak.
Mark Hendrickson (0-4, 4.89 ERA) will hope to help the Dodgers maintain that success. The left-hander, who was acquired from Tampa Bay on June 27, walked a career-high seven batters over six innings last Sunday, but did not receive a decision in a 4-3 victory over Washington.
“That’s not the way I pitch. That’s totally uncharacteristic of me, to walk that many guys,” said Hendrickson, who had never issued more than four walks in any of his previous 113 career starts. “It was just one of those days where I was having trouble finding command of the strike zone. But I can feel proud that I made pitches when I had to and kept the team in it.”
Hendrickson went 4-8 with a 3.81 ERA in 13 starts for Tampa Bay, but is still looking for his first win with the Dodgers. He has no record and a 6.30 ERA in two career starts versus the Marlins.
Hendrickson will be opposed by another left-hander in Scott Olsen (9-4, 3.90). The 22-year-old rookie is looking to extend his winning streak to four games and record a team-high 10th win.
Olsen struck out 10 batters over six innings in a 6-5 win over the New York Mets on Tuesday, but didn’t receive a decision. He gave up six hits, four runs and four walks.
“I don’t think I was able to throw my fastball as consistently as I’d like,” Olsen said. “After the third inning on, everything kind of felt a little better.”
The left-hander, who will face the Dodgers for the first time, has 26 strikeouts in his last three games. After beginning the season 2-3 with a 6.64 ERA in his first eight starts, Olsen is 7-1 with a 2.49 ERA in his last 12 outings.
Since Olsen is holding left-handed hitters to a .160 batting average, Little is expected to sit Kenny Lofton, J.D. Drew and James Loney. Right-handed hitters Olmedo Saenz (first base), Jason Repko (center field) and Ramon Martinez (right field) will likely take their spots in the lineup.
The Marlins are trying to avoid being swept by the Dodgers at home for the first time since May 19-21, 2000.
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