Dodgers hope their nice turnaround is only a beginning

Dodgers center fielder Andre Ethier, center, is congratulated by teammates Matt Kemp, second left, and Adrian Gonzalez after hitting a three-run home run as St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina looks on during the fifth inning of Sunday's game.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Ho-hum, another 9 1/2-game deficit wiped out by the Dodgers in less time than it takes Tommy Lasorda to explain the joys of eating pasta.

Somewhat incredibly, the Dodgers have pulled it off for a second consecutive summer.

“I don’t think it’s something we want to start as a trend here,” said outfielder Andre Ethier.

Still, the really good news after Sunday’s 6-0 victory over the Cardinals may have been the way the Dodgers reacted to the accomplishment. Surprised they were able to chase the Giants down in the National League West in just 21 days, but recognizing the long road ahead.


“Everybody in here is confident in the team’s ability,” said left-hander Clayton Kershaw. “When we were struggling early, I think everybody knew in the backs of our minds that we could turn it around.

“Coming back and tying up the Giants in a month is not something we expected. Just like we didn’t expect to go 42-8 last year. We have that ability. It goes back to being a veteran team and not getting too high or too low.”

And that’s the key for the Dodgers now. Feeling good about climbing back into a tie with the Giants, but not acting like it’s mission accomplished.

Their ascent has been aided by the Giants’ sudden, incredulous shocking play of late. The Giants have won just four of their last 19. Early on the Dodgers’ charge seemed as much fueled by the Giants’ sudden collapse as their own strong play.

But the Dodgers have now won 12 of their last 16, and five consecutive series. If their starting pitching has led the way, no one thinks the team has peaked offensively.

“We feel good about the way we’re playing,” said Manager Don Mattingly. “I feel like we’ve hopefully hit a stride where we can kinda keep this pace up. Continue to win series.

“But we know there is a long ways to go. We’re barely past half [of the season]. It does feel good to climb a little bit of mountain. When you’re way back there, you’re in danger of a bad week putting you in real trouble. At least now you can survive a rough week. It’s a good feeling at this point, but a long way to go.”

That’s the advantage of having a veteran team that has been through the wars, even if one was just last year. There are still three months left to the season, time for plenty of runs, good and bad.

“I think going through it last year really helps,” said catcher A.J. Ellis. “We obviously went on an extra-special run last year and were able to make up ground. I think that’s why everyone in this clubhouse never really felt like we were out of it when we were 9 1/2 back.

“Obviously we might have gotten to this position a little sooner than anyone expected, but I don’t think anybody here is shocked that we made it here.”

The Dodgers respect San Francisco and understand that the Giants always get up to play their southern rivals. They still have nine games remaining against the Giants, six in September.

The Dodgers sound pleased that things are turning around, but are keenly aware that much remains to be done.

“I’ve never seen a pennant won in June, July or August. Obviously they’re won in September,” Ethier said. “We still have three long months of games.”