Dodgers' winning ways are starting to draw early believers

Dodgers' winning ways are starting to draw early believers
Dodgers left fielder Scott Van Slyke is mobbed by teammates after hitting the game-winning home run against the Miami Marlins on Monday night. (Michael Nelson / EPA)

Forgive me, because it's way too early for this. Too many games to play, holes in the rotation to fill, injuries yet to come.

I know all this, but the feeling grows anyway. Winning does that, of course. A 162-game season is typically filled with ebbs and flows. And currently, things are very much on the rise with the Dodgers.

Right now, on this 12th day of May, it's getting more difficult to ignore the feeling the Dodgers are building something that could prove special. It could all blow up tomorrow, too, but you could argue it already should have.

The Dodgers are 21-10 and have yet to get one start from Hyun-Jin Ryu or see one relief appearance from closer Kenley Jansen. They have two-thirds of the starting outfield, Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford, on the disabled list. They’ve lost right-hander Brandon McCarthy for the season. Their best player and current National League Cy Young and MVP winner, Clayton Kershaw, is 1-2 with an ERA more than twice what it was last season.

They should be struggling to climb over the .500 mark, not already five games up in the National League West.

If there's a formula, it's one that would prove challenging to replicate. They've gone to raw rookies, called up journeymen from the minors, mixed in part-time players who excel in the moment, received consistent production from veterans.

And made it all work.

“It’s exciting,” said outfielder Andre Ethier. “Everyone is out there just trying to win ballgames any way we can.”

This from a 33-year-old outfielder whom many in the organization were ready to give up on, but was diving into the stands to try to make a catch Monday and then driving a base hit to help spark the game-winning rally in the bottom of the ninth.

But the Dodgers are littered with guys like that right now. Scott Van Slyke was hitless in his last 12 at-bats and had seen his playing time cut with the emergence of Alex Guerrero. He started Monday and was everywhere, throwing out a player at the plate, collecting three hits and driving in three with a home run in the bottom of the ninth.

"I was in a lot of action out there," Van Slyke said. "A lot more than I'm used to."

It almost just seemed his turn. The Dodgers rotate their heroes these days. After the night he'd already had, his coming through with the game-ending homer Monday seemed almost inevitable.


"I knew he was going to get a hit," Ethier said. "I didn't know he was going to do that."

It was the Dodgers' fourth game-ending hit of the season. They have 11 comeback victories. Win games like that, and teams build confidence and start believing.

So when Yimi Garcia, who had been all but invincible in his first 14 appearances this season, took a one-run lead into the ninth and promptly served up a two-run homer nobody seemed to blink.

"Yimi had a little hiccup there," Ethier said. "I don't think anyone panicked or gave up. You can see by the way we responded in the ninth. We knew what we had to do – score one run. We were lucky enough to get three and walk away with a win."

The adage is winning cures all ills. And right now the Dodgers are managing to win despite missing two-thirds of their rotation and all but having a casting call every fifth turn. Winning satisfies players who want more time on the field. A.J. Ellis doesn't moan his reduced playing time, any more than Juan Uribe or Ethier or Van Slyke.

"We're just trying to win games," said Manager Don Mattingly, all simple like.

Every team is trying to win games, but only 10 advance to the playoffs and only one from each league to the World Series. Only right now, still so very early in the season, the Dodgers seem to be casting egos aside and coming together. A team can build on something like that, and despite all logic, make you start to believe.