By Chris Emma–
CHICAGO (CBS) — Three hours before first pitch, Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger was where he usually can be found before a game.READ MORE: Woman Shot In Hand In Broad Daylight In Irving Park
He sat focused before a computer screen to scout out how White Sox starter Miguel Gonzalez could try to beat him. Corey Seager and Justin Turner were getting their work in on the field before a hitters’ meeting in the clubhouse. Tuesday starter Clayton Kershaw was getting zoned in before heading out for his stretches and warmups.
The Dodgers have made winning seem so easy, surging ahead to baseball’s best mark at 64-29. They’ve won 29 of their last 33 games entering Tuesday’s tilt with the White Sox. But while they make winning look so monotonous, it’s the work that’s bringing the Dodgers their results.
“That’s why we’re so successful,” Bellinger said.
A year removed from the Cubs’ surge to the top of baseball, it’s the Dodgers dominating the National League.
The Cubs were a buzzsaw waiting for the Dodgers in the playoffs last October, overcoming an early deficit in the series to win the National League pennant in six games. Ultimately, the Dodgers’ pitching couldn’t sustain for the series and the bats went silent against a rock-solid Cubs rotation.
This time around, the Dodgers are an even greater force. Bellinger emerged in April and has hit 26 homers in 73 games while playing like the NL Rookie of the Year. Seager is on a seven-WAR pace again for his second full season, according to FanGraphs. Turner entered Tuesday hitting .374 and leading this lineup as a veteran member to their young core.
After the Cubs boasted the best rotation in baseball a year ago, it’s the Dodgers leading the way. Their starters entered Tuesday with a 3.23 ERA and 3.47 FIP, both of which are improved from a year ago. That’s led by Kershaw, of course, the most dominant pitcher in baseball. He came into Tuesday’s start at 14-2 with a 2.18 ERA — ho-hum for him.
Kershaw’s numbers have come to be expected. But then there’s the emergence of Alex Wood, the 26-year-old first-time All-Star who’s now 11-0 with a 1.56 ERA. Wood and Kershaw have become dueling aces this season. Veterans Brandon McCarthy and Rich Hill have been steady, Kenta Maeda has been better as of late and Hyun-Jin Ryu is set to return and open a six-man rotation for the time being.READ MORE: Member Of Illinois House Speaker Welch's Staff Tests Positive For COVID-19 In Springfield
So, the Dodgers have a dangerous lineup and a relentless rotation. Oh, and don’t hold out hope for the ninth inning, which is Kenley Jansen’s territory. They’ve certainly put the Cubs and their hopes for 2017 on notice. A trip to the World Series should again run through Los Angeles.
“We’re a better club than last year — top to bottom,” manager Dave Roberts said. “We’re playing good baseball.”
Added Wood: “Everybody knows what to expect and what we need to do in order to win a championship. We feel really confident in what we got right now.”
Meanwhile, the Cubs have scuffled through most of this 2017 season They entered the All-Star break at 43-45 before rolling off four consecutive victories to open the second half. Chicago hasn’t been better than four over the .500 mark all season.
The Cubs are the same team as a year ago, only forced to replace Dexter Fowler and Aroldis Chapman. Their young core of Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber has been inconsistent, while the rotation that led baseball in 2016 has been shaky.
Perhaps these Cubs can round to form and become the team expected this season. Any surge from them shouldn’t come as a surprise. But this has been the Dodgers’ year, and they’re the team to beat in the National League.
“It truly just feels like we come to the park and if we play our game, that we’re going to win every night,” Wood said. “That’s kind of how it feels.
“It truly feels like we’re just out there playing against ourselves, and if we take care of what we need to take care of, we’ll have a pretty good chance of winning each night out.”MORE NEWS: Bomb Squad Called In After Live Grenade Is Found In South Austin