The Los Angeles Dodgers were the preseason favorites to win the National League pennant along with the Washington Nationals, but both teams were vastly disappointing through mid-June.
The difference now is that the Nationals remain a major bust, but the Dodgers are the hottest team in baseball and have jumped to the front of the pack of Bovada’s NL pennant odds at 5/2. Atlanta and St. Louis are just behind at 3/1.
On June 21, the Dodgers lost to San Diego to drop to 30-42 and dead last in the NL West, 9 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona. Most thought Dodgers manager Don Mattingly would be the first big league skipper fired this year, but L.A. entered its game Monday at 12 games over .500 and in command of the division.
The catalyst for the turnaround has been Cuban rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig, who has been one of the best players in baseball since his debut on June 3. Puig has captivated Los Angeles much like Fernando Valenzuela once did. He enters this week as an NL Rookie of the Year favorite, hitting .376 with 11 home runs and 25 RBIs.
Puig isn’t doing it alone at the plate, though. Former Red Sox prospect Hanley Ramirez has been sensational, hitting .361. However, he missed the first two months of the season with an injury and hurt his shoulder on Sunday, and another trip to the disabled list could be in the cards.
The Dodgers have gotten little from former Sox pitcher Josh Beckett, who is out for the season, but Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .297 with 15 homers and 66 RBIs. Carl Crawford has been in and out of the lineup with injuries, but has been solid when healthy, batting .280. Star outfielder Matt Kemp has delivered scant production due to injuries, as well, which makes the team’s turnaround even more surprising.
No team wants to see the Dodgers in a playoff series because they have one of the best pitchers in baseball in lefty Clayton Kershaw (10-6, 1.87 ERA). He has overtaken the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright as the NL Cy Young betting favorite. Kershaw dominated the Yankees in his last start and has allowed just nine combined earned runs in his past seven starts. He leads the majors in ERA and WHIP (0.86). Behind Kershaw, the Dodgers have Zack Greinke and rookie sensation Hyun-Jin Ryu, who hasn’t lost since June 19. Closer Kenley Jansen has been nearly unhittable as of late.
A Dodgers-Red Sox World Series is currently set at +1300. Boston is now the third favorite to win the AL pennant at 17/4, behind Detroit (3/1) and Tampa Bay (4/1). The Red Sox and Dodgers play three games in Los Angeles from Aug. 23-25. If you are wondering, they haven’t met since Boston swept three games at Fenway Park in June 2010.