Dodgers sweep Angels to become first NL team to reach the 60-win mark
For only the fifth time in franchise history, the Dodgers have won 60 games before the All-Star break.
This time, they took a circuitous path getting there.
One former most valuable player, Clayton Kershaw, was sidelined a month. Another, Mookie Betts, was out two weeks. A third, Cody Bellinger, has been perhaps their worst hitter.
Their future-Hall-of-Fame closer, Craig Kimbrel, has been one of their least reliable bullpen arms.
Less than a month ago, they weren’t even leading their division.
And yet …
Once the Angels start negotiating with Shohei Ohtani on a new deal, the franchise should take the same approach the Nationals did with Juan Soto.
They finished the first half in a flurry of 20 wins in 25 games, coasting into the All-Star break with a 7-1 drubbing of the Angels on Saturday night for their fourth victory in a row.
They have the best record in the National League at 60-30 and a 9½-game lead in the National League West, sprinting away from the struggling San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants.
And they have five All-Stars, with Tyler Anderson joining the mix Saturday as an NL replacement following his 10-win start to the season, and 2.96 earned-run average.
“We’ve done a really nice job,” manager Dave Roberts said. “I expect to be in first place; we all do. But how we got there is most important. Losing key pieces, no one fretted. We just got to keep moving on and put the blinders on. So this break is coming at the right time.”
On Saturday afternoon, Roberts gave his team an overall A-minus grade for their first-half performance. By the end of the night, they might have pushed that mark a little higher.
Left-hander Julio Urías, one of several All-Star snubs on the roster, gave up just one run over seven strong innings, lowering his ERA to 2.89 and the Dodgers’ MLB-best team starting pitching ERA to 2.77.
The lineup hit four home runs: two from Trea Turner, his 11th career multihomer game; a three-run blast from Max Muncy, which came during a five-run third inning that put the game out of reach; and a solo drive from Freddie Freeman, giving him his 1,000th career RBI.
They reach the break with the second-most runs scored in the majors and the second-highest team on-base-plus-slugging percentage
Angels outfielder Mike Trout was originally in the lineup for Saturday night’s game against the Dodgers but was scratched because of upper-back spasms.
After having to battle for the division during the second half of last year — unsuccessfully, finishing second to the Giants despite 106 wins — the Dodgers also have highly sought-after breathing room in the standings. Their division lead is the third largest in baseball. Plus, they have a five-game edge for a top-two seed in the NL, which would guarantee a bye into the division series in this year’s reconfigured playoff format.
“We’ve played pretty well obviously,” Turner said. “The record and the standings show that. But we’re not complacent. I think we want to get better and continue to play good baseball.”
There are still ways for the Dodgers to do so.
They have a host of injured pitchers, from Buehler and Treinen to Brusdar Graterol, Dustin May, and Tommy Kahnle, they are hoping to get back for the stretch run and playoffs.
Dodgers starter Tyler Anderson — who has had a spectacular first half, going 10-1 with a 2.96 ERA — is rewarded with a berth on the NL All-Star roster.
They could look to add at next month’s trade deadline, with everything from another starting pitcher — they’ve already been linked to Cincinnati Reds All-Star Luis Castillo — to extra depth on the bench among their possible needs.
But, even after an imperfect first half of the season that included early struggles against division foes, a brief slump in the middle of May, a monthlong offensive malaise during June, and injuries up and down the pitching staff especially, the Dodgers find themselves in an enviable position as they break for the midsummer classic.
“Sixty wins is a lot of wins in the first half,” Freeman said. “We’ve been playing pretty good baseball of late. Sometimes you don’t want the All-Star break to come. But I think we can all use the rest.”
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