The all-star break can’t get here soon enough for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
One month ago today, L.A. had the best record in baseball and a somewhat comfortable four-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the National League West. Now? The Dodgers are one game behind the Giants and have only a 48.2 percent chance of even making the playoffs according to coolstandings.com (31.9 percent to win the division).
L.A. did end a seven-game losing streak with Sunday’s 8-3 victory over the visiting New York Mets. But prior to that, Los Angeles, which had lost 11 of 12 as well, hadn’t led in a game since June 24 and totaled five runs in that seven-game skid. The Dodgers became the third team in the last 50 years to be shut out at least five times in a six-game span, joining the 1963 Astros (then known as Colt 45s) and the 1992 Cubs. Nathan Eovaldi is the hardest-luck pitcher in baseball. He lost Saturday’s game, 5-0, vs. the Mets to fall to 0-5 despite a decent 4.61 ERA that was 4.04 before Saturday’s loss. He has pitched 41 innings in his seven starts this season, and his teammates have totaled just three runs while he's been in the game -- the lowest run support in the majors.
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Injuries have crippled L.A.’s lineup, with Matt Kemp, the early NL MVP leader, Andre Ethier and Mark Ellis all out. Kemp is expecting to play right after the all-star break and will in fact participate in the Home Run Derby in Kansas City. Ethier, who declined Kemp’s invitation (he’s the NL Derby captain) to compete in the contest, looks likely to miss at least the Reds series that began Monday night and could be out until after the break. Ellis could be back for the weekend series vs. the Diamondbacks.
The Dodgers thought they had a reinforcement on the way in a trade for Astros first baseman Carlos Lee, but for some reason Lee vetoed the trade to L.A. The addition of Lee would likely have meant a spot on the bench for slumping first baseman James Loney, who is hitting .237 with only two home runs and 23 RBI. The Dodgers had hoped outfielder Bobby Abreu would help the lineup after signing the former Angel in early May, but after a solid start in Dodger blue he hit just .200 in June.
Look for the Dodgers to continue to actively try to add an outfielder or first-base bat now that new ownership is in place and willing to spend. Minnesota outfielder Denard Span has often been rumored as a Dodger target. But until the injured guys return and someone is added, continue hammering the ‘under’ on those Dodgers games – only four of their past 14 games have gone ‘over’. L.A. is now +140 to win the NL West, with the Giants as -105 favorites on 5Dimes.
While the Dodgers look to be buyers as the trade deadline approaches, it appears the Phillies are going to be sellers. The preseason World Series favorites have dropped five straight and are 36-45, a whopping 11 games out of first in the NL East and 7.5 games out of the top two wild-card spots. It's the first time the franchise has been nine games under .500 since 2006 and it’s the team’s worst record through 81 games since the club was 23-58 in 1997. A loss in the series opener against the Mets on Tuesday would drop Philadelphia 10 games under .500 for the first time since July 22, 2002.
By the time injured pitcher Roy Halladay and first baseman Ryan Howard return after the all-star break, it’s likely going to be too late. Just to reach 88 wins, which probably still isn’t going to be enough for a wild-card spot, the Phils would have to win 64 percent of their remaining 81 games. That’s a 104-win season if you win 64 percent of your games over an entire season.
The Phils already traded Jim Thome to the Orioles and Chad Qualls to the Yankees, and reportedly are gauging interest in ace lefty Cole Hamels. He would bring back a ton in any deal – and definitely reshape any pennant race if moved -- even though Hamels will be a free agent after the season. It’s pretty clear now that the Phils and Hamels aren’t going to agree on a contract extension before the deadline. Hamels, 10-4 with a 3.08 ERA, is headed to his third All-Star Game next week. He is scheduled to next take the mound Thursday in a great matchup vs. R.A. Dickey. Outfielder Shane Victorino also could be dealt.
Who would have ever thought the title contender in Pennsylvania would be the Pirates (still a long-shot +6600 to win World Series on 5Dimes)? They won 17 games in June, the first time Pittsburgh had won that many in a month since August 2007. The Pirates scored an MLB-best 146 runs and hit 39 homers in the month, leading the NL in that category and tying a club record for a month, set in 1975. Andrew McCutchen is your NL MVP right now, hands down. Pittsburgh’s over/under wins total on 5Dimes is up to 84.5, with under a -130 favorite. Liking the over at -110 a ton there.
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