Now, it definitely doesn't hurt their chances, but to say the division is locked up is a bit presumptuous.
The Dodgers moved back into first place on Wednesday after a 9-3 win against the Pirates. The Nationals helped out the Dodgers by downing 'Frisco 6-4 earlier in the day.
The new lineup seems to be getting the hang of things. New additions Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino are already paying dividends. Ramirez is hitting .308/.382/.436 in 20 games. He also has 21 RBI and 13 runs scored in that time. Victorino, as the leadoff hitter, is hitting .298/.344/.439 with 11 runs scored in 13 games.
Ramirez and Victorino are picking up for Andre Ethier, who's hitting just .257/.304/.311 since Ramirez was acquired on July 25. He has just four extra base hits -- all doubles -- in that time and has just two home runs since June 10.
The Dodgers also have one of the best No. 8 hitters in all of baseball in A.J. Ellis. Far be it from me to figure out why a guy who has a .392 on-base percentage bats that low in the lineup. If anything, it gives the Dodgers a legitimate threat at the bottom of the lineup, even if he does strike out a bit much for my liking (23 percent).
Oh, and there's always that Matt Kemp fella.
Losing Cabrera is a big blow for the Giants. He was hitting .346 while leading the majors in hits. He had been a Godsend for the Giants, which acquired him in the winter for Jonathan Sanchez. However, it's a quite difficult to overcome the loss of a No. 3 hitter, even if he isn't a traditional No. 3 hitter.
The Giants still have Buster Posey, the struggling Hunter Pence and the hobbling Pablo Sandoval. There are a few legitimate hitters remaining. And trio of Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong is going to keep the Giants close. But it's going to be awfully tough for the Giants to make the playoffs.
Despite all that, the Dodgers simply cannot sit back and not take advantage of the situation. Frankly, Wednesday should be the last day this season they are not in sole possession of first place. With their additions and the Giants' loss, the Dodgers should use the opportunity to build their lead in the division. That's what playoff-bound teams do. That's what budding elite teams do. That's what the Dodgers are right now. They need to prove it to themselves and the rest of baseball.
Minor League notes
- Yasiel Puig is 3-for-7 with three stolen bases in his first two California League games.
- Joc Pederson hit a walk-off RBI single on Wednesday. He finished 2-for-5 and is hitting a robust .350/.448/.650 line with 12 home runs since July 1.
- Rubby De La Rosa had a nice outing with the Arizona League Dodgers on Tuesday: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K. He's far too advanced for the league, but it's nice to see him throwing. In fact, Ken Rosenthal tweeted and said he averaged 97 MPH on his fastball during his 42-pitch outing.
- The Lookouts are three games ahead of the Jackson Generals (Mariners) for the second-half division title. If they make the playoffs, it'll be partly due to a filthy bullpen of Steve Ames, Eric Eadington, Red Patterson, Steven Rodriguez and Javier Solano. That's about as good as it gets.
Photo credit: X Wad, Wikimedia Commons